One Dry Season: In the Footsteps of Mary Kingsley

One Dry Season: In the Footsteps of Mary Kingsley

by Caroline Alexander

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1893 Mary Kingsley, then 30, ventured into what is now Gabon, West Africa, ``a region notorious for its deadly climate and diseases, its alarming wildlife, and its cannibals.'' The British wayfarer was enthralled and penned Travels in West Africa . This classic led American doctoral student and pentathlete Alexander to embark on a similar odyssey, retracing Kingsley's steps. Armed with Kingsley's book and maps, her own background research, and a store of determination, the author trekked through bamboo forests and villages of mud huts, encountering incurious natives and serene missionaries. Juxtaposing the colorful details of her days with the writings of a vast cast of explorers from a century before, Alexander weaves a verbal tapestry that tells of her deepening affection for the Gabonese and growing admiration for the exploits of her 19th-century forebear. In superimposing motorboats, hydrofoils and other modernisms upon Kingsley's less ``civilized'' adventure, Alexander may come up short in her desire to ``make contact with the past,'' but the record of her attempt will fascinate. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Kingsley's Travels in West Africa (1897) still makes wonderfully entertaining reading; she is a hard act to follow. Although travel to Africa has shed its exoticism, it still offers plenty of challenges, and Alexander found her share in equatorial Gabon, retracing the route up the Ogooue River taken by Kingsley nearly 100 years ago. Weaving a narrative pattern of ``then and now,'' Alexander evokes images of chugging river steamers packed with passengers, roads of red dust, pirogues paddled against the current, and more. As she travels in the footsteps of others, she reflects on the different faces of interpretive writing, selective recollection, and the disparity between fact and fiction. But ultimately this is Alexander's own story of discovery and can be read and enjoyed as such. She avoids the patronizing, exaggerated tone of much contemporary travel writing about Africa; she is sympathetic and gently self-effacing. Recommended for libraries developing travel literature collections and for Africana collections.--Janet L. Stanley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Departures Ser.
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

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