Tuesday 19 June 2018

In Spite of Lions by Scarlette Pike

Shortlisted for book of the month

AMAZON UK £5.25 £12.69
AMAZON US $7.53 $12.63

Family drama / adventure
19th century
London & Africa

Anna is running away. From whom or what? She has changed her name and takes passage on a ship bound for anywhere. She doesn’t care, doesn’t even want to know. She is determined to shed the constraints of her society and live independently somewhere far away from England. The captain of the ship turns out to be a man from her past, the husband of a late and dear friend. He too has changed his name. Why? He is a very menacing and mysterious character and Anna is wary of him. Could he possibly be the love interest? To add a little more spice to the pot, also on the ship are Mrs. David Livingstone and children who are going to meet Mr. Livingstone. Yes, Anna’s destination turns out to be Africa.

By this time – the third chapter – I was so firmly hooked, I could hardly move from my chair. Nothing could be a greater contrast to Anna’s previous experience than the lifestyle of the Livingstones and the culture of Africa. We observe this young, well-bred English lady as she rides for days in the back of a wagon, watches an animal being butchered, learns to pluck a fowl, lives through a drought, a lion attack and a war… and yet loves Africa. Meanwhile she suffers nightmares of her past life and struggles to come to terms with the person she was.

Anna is a bit of a trope – a woman trying to live according to the mores of a later time – but because of the author’s excellent writing and story-telling, she rises above such clich├ęs. All the main characters are interesting and well-presented, but my favourite is the Chief - also a real person - as colourful and delightful a character as you could hope to meet. The relationship between him and the Livingstones is heartwarming.

Judging by the ending, I feel sure there will be another book.
Heartily recommended

© Susan Appleyard

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