Monday, April 16, 2012

The Darling, Russell Banks

After many years of believing that I never dream of anything, I dreamed of Africa. It happened on a late-August night here at the farm in Keene Valley, about as far from Africa as I have been able to situate myself. I couldn't recall the dream's story, although I knew that it was in Africa, the country of Liberia, and my home in Monrovia, and that somehow the chimps had played a role, for there were round, brown, masklike faces still afloat in my  mind when I awoke, safe in my bed in this old house in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains, and found myself overflowing with the knowledge that I would soon return there. 

I loved Russell Bank's book Cloudsplitter, which I read a few years ago, and I was really looking forward to The Darling. I was not disappointed either. The Darling is set in Liberia and the US between 1975-91. It is the story of one Hannah Musgrave, who was a member of the Weather Underground. She fled from America to west Africa, where she and her African husband fell in with Charles Taylor, the notorious criminal warlord. She eventually participates in Taylor's escape from prison. This was indeed a brutal book, and I was reminded of the recent hype about Joseph Kony from Rwanda. Charles Taylor was a similar type person. But I really liked it. I think my favorite part of the book was the great narration; Hannah Musgrave's narrative is quite engaging, provocative, and beautiful. I also loved the way the Russell Banks included chimps in the story, a reminder of the natural beauty that still exists in Africa despite the political turmoil. And the book was not without some hope.

Read The Darling:
  • if you love Russell Bank's books
  • if you are interested in Africa
  • if you're looking for a novel with great narration
392 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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