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An Honourable Man by Gillian Slovo

An Honourable Man

by Gillian Slovo

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A very disappointing read. The characters were unlikeable with no redeeming qualities so I failed to connect or have any sympathy for them. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jan 2, 2016 |
One word to describe how I felt about this book: frustrated.

First, I knew nothing about the historical event on which this is based, and I didn't feel the author made any of it clear. There was some kind of conflict between Egypt and Sudan, so a British general went there to fix things but he made a holy mess of everything. The book begins in 1884 when Britain sends more military to rescue him and his troops. The back story and political complications were a confusing muddle to me.

Second, the characters were totally unlikable. John Clarke, a young doctor who decides to go with the troops to the Sudan, comes across as superior and condescending. The general is stark raving mad with a God complex. John’s wife Mary is weak and needy and insecure, and becomes an opiate addict to deal with her loneliness. And then there’s the manipulative power-hungry journalist who’s campaigning for the general.

Third, the book reads like a rough draft. I don’t think an editor even glanced at the manuscript. Sentences like, “He was talking as if Will was a fellow general Will knew that he was really talking to himself.” (Wha?) and “The train juddered and champagne frothed out, some of it making it into the glass.” (The construction of that sentence implies that the champagne frothed out of the train.) It’s just quite dreadful.

I’ll use that clichéd review sentence: I really wanted to like this book. The author was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2004 for “Ice Road.” I haven’t read that book, but I assumed that the prize nomination was indicative of her writing talent. And the events on which this story is based are wonderful material for a novel. But all in all, I really did not like this book and I only made it to the last page by sheer determination. ( )
1 vote Her_Royal_Orangeness | Feb 27, 2012 |
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Beginning in the Sudan and London of 1884, this extraordinary new novel is played out against the shambolic end of the Empire. Slovo draws on the lives of two real men: Charles Gordon, an heroic, hubristic, career army man whose refusal to obey orders helped bring down the Gladstone government, and W T Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, the father of tabloid journalism. Their story is intercuts with the tale of a poor, working woman in London. This is a book about destiny and about how wrong men can be; about foreign adventure and heroism doomed to failure; about women struggling to carve a place for themselves in the world; about political compromise and military mayhem.… (more)

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