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Publisher's Summary

An intimate and moving portrait of a family combined with an account of the events which swept through Africa in the postindependence period.

Aminatta Forna’s intensely personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an African childhood - of an idyll that became a nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of postcolonial Africa, the bitterness of exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father’s stand against tyranny.

Mohamed Forna, a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma, was a new star in the political firmament Sierra Leone as the country faced its future as a fledgling democracy. Always a political firebrand, he was one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. In Aberdeen he stole the heart of Aminatta's mother, to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents, and returned with her to Sierra Leone. But the new ways of Western parliamentary democracy were tearing old Africa apart, giving rise only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-of magnitude. It was not long before Aminatta’s father languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and there was worse to come.

Aminatta’s search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation’s destiny begins among the country's elite and takes her into the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father’s fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation's politicians and judiciary to confront their guilt.

©2002 Aminatta Forna (P)2015 Audible, Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"An extraordinary and gripping story...Aminatta Forna’s book glows with compassion. A modern classic, of which her courageous father would have been proud." (Peter Gowin, author of Mukiwa)

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Profile Image for Chantal
  • Chantal
  • 04-19-18

Could do with being edited more strictly

Andoh's lively, intelligent and evocative reading can't save this book from being too long. It rambles on and on, so while horrific tales are told the attention starts to wander. She said that before, when did she say that before, what exactly does she mean here, is it because she is telling it from a child's point of view? While these questions are popping up the story fades. I wkuld highly recommend an abridged version as the story itself is gripping and needs to be told.

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Profile Image for Anton Kruger
  • Anton Kruger
  • 11-27-17

Is there only one African accent?

The first time I heard Adjoa Andoh narrate was when I listened to her performance of Adiche’s Americanah. I really enjoyed her performance, and felt that it was enhanced by the fact that I thought I was being exposed to an authentic Nigerian accent and that I was developing some insight into a culture I did not know much about. I was disappointed when I started listening to The Devil That Danced on the Water and realized that, in Andoh’s voice, people from Sierra Leone sound the same as people from Nigeria. This does not help to combat the Western perception that “Africa is a country”. I suppose I should have done some research into Andoh before I made assumptions.
The memoir itself was moving and delicately told - however, I found the last three hours were quite heavy going as the author got into the fine details of who said what to whom and I started to lose track.