Historical novel, travelogue, romance and political thriller - this book is certainly epic in scope. Based on Portugal’s island colony of São Tomé e Príncipe, this is a window on a little known corner of turn-of-the-century colonialism. As this morality tale rich in vivid description, believable characters and historical detail unfolds, expect total immersion in this simmering tropical community.
Suddenly, a sad, lilting song rose up from one of the huts, a voice singing in Angolan dialect, a canticle to chill the bones, and soon chorused by myriad voices. The chant swelled and filled the huts, crossed the open yard and reached the Casa Grande, where Luis Bernardo was watching early morning rise from a window. It was a song of sadness for a day that began swathed in mist, for a sun they had left behind, for a sea of no return they imagined but would never see, for a night that buried all their dreams. Yet it wasn’t a song: it was a chanted lament for a lost world that barely survived in their memories of happier days. They wept for their other Africa, for open plains, for grass dried in the sun, for animals running free, for the bush where lions stalk zebras and leopards silently pursue antelope, for rivers navigated in frail canoes between sleeping alligators and hippopotami, for nights on the savannah, listening to the cries from the jungle, fears allayed by a fire burning among stones.