Out of Darkness, Shining Light

Out of Darkness, Shining Light

by Petina Gappah


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“Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a novel that lends voice to those who appeared only as footnotes in history, yet whose final, brave act of loyalty and respect changed the course of it. An incredible and important book by a masterful writer.” ​—Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982110338
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 75,575
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Petina Gappah is an award-winning and widely translated Zimbabwean writer. She is the author of two novels, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, The Book of Memory, and two short story collections, Rotten Row and An Elegy for Easterly. Her work has also been published in, among others, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, The Financial Times, and the Africa Report. For many years, Petina worked as an international trade lawyer at the highest levels of diplomacy in Geneva where she advised more than seventy developing countries from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America on trade law and policy. Petina has also been a DAAD Writing Fellow in Berlin, an Open Society Fellow and a Livingstone Scholar at Cambridge University. She has law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University in Austria, and the University of Zimbabwe. She currently lives in Harare.

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Out of Darkness, Shining Light: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
labmom55 8 days ago
2.5 stars, rounded down Another book where I’m in the minority. This is the story of David Livingstone, both his life and death while searching for the origin of the Nile. Told to us by Halima, his “sharp tongued” cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a freed slave turned Christian convert, we get two vividly contrasting stories. But both stories capture not only the unique relationship between Bwana Daudi and the blacks that were on his expedition, but also the relationship between the English and the Africans. I especially appreciated Halima trying to understand the Christian religion, as Livingstone tried to convert various people. Jacob, on the other hand, comes across as the typical religious zealot finding fault with everyone. This is not a fast moving story. In fact, I found it slow as molasses. Described as being about the trip to take his body back to the coast so it can be returned to England, half the book is gone before the trip even begins. Gappah does an admirable job of giving us a great sense of time and place. Her research shines through. But it was just too dense and slow for my taste. My thanks to netgalley and Scribner for an advance copy of this book.
Anonymous 8 days ago
3.75 This book journals the aftermath of Dr. David Livingtone’s death; English physician, missionary and humanitarian. It is delivered from two POVs; his female cook, Halimi and from Jacob Wainwright, a Christian missionary. Dr. Livingstone has bestowed himself a man of great significance among their people. He is deified because of his contributions to their village. (He is referred to as Bwana (‘Master’) Daudi, and Halimi, is ‘his favorite slave to a white muzungu.’) I thoroughly enjoyed the spirited narration coming from Halimi’s POV. Her prose is funny, witty and sharp. She is a refreshing character to read in such a dark and unusual situation. Her deep inquisitiveness and assertiveness sets the story for minor conflict. (I found myself rooting for her as she professes her deep yearning for freedom from slave and patriarchal norms in 1870s Zambia, Africa.) Wainwright’s POV was beautifully written, but much slower paced. It reads more technically to their journey, rather than a traditional story arc. Her story telling is vivid with great sensory details. I like how she also chose deeply contrasting characters; both in a truly extraordinary situation. ("Whoever heard," she said, 'of a group of people marching from place to place with a dead body.") I received this ARC from Scribner (for Simon and Schuster) via NetGalley.com for an honest review.
lee2staes 13 days ago
Out of Darkness, Shining Light describes the story of David Livingston and the themes of strength, determination, love, loyalty and courage. The characters were well developed and it had a very interesting plot. A fascinating story, well written and I appreciated the research that went into this book. I would be interested in reading more of this author. My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
MaryND 13 days ago
Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah’s new book, “Out of Darkness, Shining Light” fits into that category of novel occupied by Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” and Laila Lalami’s “The Moor’s Account,” where a familiar story is told from the point of view of some of its marginalized participants. In this case, the story is Dr. David Livingstone’s travels and death in Africa, and the transportation of his body overland to the sea by the Africans in his retinue so that it could be returned for burial in Britain. Gappah chooses two different narrators for her book—a slave named Halima who is Dr. Livingstone’s cook, and the missionary-educated, English-speaking Jacob Wainwright, who dreams of becoming a missionary himself. I preferred the voice of the feisty and sharp-tongued Halima, who narrates the first section of the book detailing the events leading up to Livingstone’s death: “They say, oh, Halima, you talk too much. Well, I may talk too much, but I have more than a tongue in my head. I have eyes too.” Halima does see things, in fact, that the self-righteous Jacob, who fancies himself more intelligent than anyone else in Livingstone’s expedition, is blind to, and although I missed Halima’s singular voice once the pious Jacob takes over the narrative, it is this dissonance between what Halima has intuited and foreseen at the beginning of the novel and what Jacob trusts and reports during his section that gives the book a lot of its tension. (And Halima does return at the end of the novel in a very satisfying postscript of sorts.) Gappah has certainly done her research—this book was 20 years in the making and it shows in every meticulous and colorful detail she drops along the path Livingstone’s corpse was carried. I wanted to read this initially to fill in the gaps of my understanding of David Livingstone, his explorations in Africa, and his famous meeting with Henry Morton Stanley, and I wasn’t disappointed in that, but it was the immersion in Africa and its people—and the depiction of the human cost of slavery and colonialism by those who had suffered both—that for me was the unexpected pleasure and the real story of “Out of Darkness, Shining Light.” I look forward to reading Gappah’s earlier books and to seeing what she has planned for the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for my honest review.