Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An African Affair - Nina Darnton

An African Affair
Nina Darnton


In 1994, Lindsay Cameron is a foreign correspondent for a major newspaper.  She’s based in Nigeria.  The country is run by a military dictator, Olumide, who wields power mercilessly and funds his regime through the drug trade.  Journalists who file stories that he dislikes can be ejected from the country.  Or, worse, they disappear.  Lindsay accepts the inherent danger because she truly believes that she can make a difference by filing her stories; exposing the truth to the world, facilitating change. 

There are opposing factions inside the country.  There’s the local rebel group The Next Step, hoping to replace Olumide’s oppressive regime with a more democratic one of their design.  And there are northern rebels who want a Muslim power structure put in place.  No one has clean hands.  Everyone wants power for their own ends.  And, as usual, it’s the innocent population at large that suffers. 

When the story begins, Lindsay seems to think that her press credentials can protect her from the worst of things, and she might be temporarily correct.  Even with years of experience, she clings to ideals that some might call naïve.  Eventually, she starts filing stories that do not please Olumide and she begins to feel his wrath.  Making contacts and moving deeper into the opposition, she comes to realize that, really, no one is safe.

I can’t imagine choosing to live in such an inherently hostile and unstable area, but, fortunately for all of us, there are journalist who do exactly that.  It’s true that someone has to expose the truth for change to be possible.  Those truth-tellers are often in the line of fire.  Lindsay learns some very hard lessons over the course of the story, but never entirely lets go of her idealism.

To read this book is to spend time in a place that is utterly foreign.  The author, without any overblown prose, manages to convey the incredible heat, the daily inconveniences, the dangers, and the harshness of life. The people she meets are by turns angry, desperate, and beaten down, yet they somehow maintain a certain amount of dignity.  Through Lindsay’s eyes, the reader sees indigenous people, other reporters, traders, diplomats, and operatives of various governments.  In a situation that seems unwinnable, maybe the truth is all that matters.
Rating: 8
June 2012
ISBN# 978-0-452-29802-6 (trade paperback)


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