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The Clouds Beneath the Sun by Mackenzie Ford
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The Clouds Beneath the Sun

by Mackenzie Ford

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1313891,855 (2.94)18
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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
You know, I think until the last chapter of this book I was almost considering giving it 5 stars, and after the last chapter I was going to downgrade it to 2, such was the difference the last chapter made in how I felt about it. Against my better judgement I'm going to split the difference even though the final chapter really ruined my over-all impression of the book. I don't know how your tagline can be 'Love-whatever the cost' and end it the way it ended.

Ignoring the final chapter, there was lots about this book I liked. The setting at an archaeological dig in Kenya was fascinating, as was the history of the local Masai tribe and the politics between tribal law and 'white' law in the time period. It basically ticked a lot of boxes in terms of my own interests lie.

The main character is Natalie - a 20 something who joins the dig in Kenya of a renowned archaeologist Eleanor Deacon. Natalie is nursing her wounds after the death of her mother, estrangement from her father and the abandonment of her married lover and goes to the gorge to work.

An important discover is made almost immediately on her arrival and she suggests that before the scientists who made the discovery can jump the gun and publish their findings, that they compare the bones they found with more recent bones. The two doctors, unwilling to wait for proper procedure then go and raid a Masai grave, stealing bones in order to verify their findings.

The grave robbing is what sets the rest of the events of the book into motion as one of the doctors is murdered by a Masai man and Natalie is the only one who can identify that the man was in the vicinity of the murder scene.

The book for me is at its most successful when it is dealing with the cultural complexities between what is acceptable under different rules of law. There is a political under-current in the book, where you see scientists trying to broker ways in which to protect their findings, while placating two very different sides in a country on the brink of independence as both sides are attempting to get a foothold in the new Kenya and see the trial as a way to make it happen.

The characters were generally well rounded and complex. Natalie could have perhaps been a little less self-involved (I was almost at the stage of wanting to throttle her at times in the book for mentioning Dominic) and perhaps a little too rigid in her thinking regarding the multiple marriages acceptable in Masai society considering she, herself, had been quite happy to engaged in a relationship with a married lover. I would say that her appeal to the men around the camp was a little ridiculous, but they were in the middle of nowhere and she was an attractive, intelligent woman so I suppose options were limited considering the only other woman available was Eleanor who was in her 60's. ;)

The dynamics between Natalie and the Deacons - both with Eleanor and Eleanor's sons (Christopher and Jack) was pretty fascinating. Eleanor, the older matriarch of the archaeological world who ran her digs with an iron fist was actually extremely likeable for me, even as she riled Natalie up. Christopher, a quiet and introverted guy seemed almost fascinated with Natalie, but he was slow to act until his brother arrived and then it almost became more about his own jealous nature than anything else. Jack was charming, and intelligent and passionate and a very easy character to like and it was easy to see why Natalie was drawn to him (even if at times it wasn't always easy to see why he was drawn to Natalie.)

As I said, the book does a lot right and if it hadn't been for the ending then I think I would have really loved it. As it was, as a woman for me, it was extremely upsetting to see Jack's feelings so reliant on whether or not Natalie would give him an opportunity to procreate. Perhaps it's just me, but it really upset me a lot to not only read that she had lost her father and her unborn child, but that because, through no fault of her own, she had also lost the ability to have children that Jack would then take back his marriage proposal, leaving her on her own. Nothing like unconditional love.
( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Overall, I liked this book about a scandal-plagued anthropological dig in early 1960s Kenya. I enjoyed the will they/won't they romance at the center of the story and the intrigue surrounding Natalie, the main character, and her colleagues on the dig. But while I found the history and science that surround the plot to be interesting and often necessary to the story as a whole, I do feel that the author could have found ways to more seamlessly fit it into the novel.

I was also somewhat surprised by what I thought to be an abrupt ending which wasn't really helped by the two paragraph note at the end of the book which included both factual anthropological information as well as a brief follow-up about the two main characters. ( )
  sshartelg | Feb 15, 2012 |
I love most any book that can transport me to a place and a time other than my own; a book that I can get lost in. The Clouds Beneath the Sun is such a book. From the very first page I liked Natalie’s character and was interested in and intrigued by the excavation project she was joining as a team archaeologist. From the initial premise the book expanded to deal with social customs of the Masai, local politics, romance, history, mystery, adventure and more. It may seem like an ambitious undertaking but Mackenzie Ford was definitely capable of dealing with every challenge. I was completely enthralled by the events of the story and think most everyone I know would enjoy this book. It would definitely make a good book club selection because of the variety of topics that could be discussed. The only negative: it ended too soon.
  texanne | Aug 8, 2011 |
I was given this book as a member giveaway. The person who sent it to me had received it as an early review copy, but did not care for the book. Unfortunately, I didn't care for it either. The synopsis sounded interesting, but I was never pulled into the book's narrative and did not finish it. I've passed it on again. Hopefully, third time's the charm and the book finds a more appreciative reader. ( )
  y2pk | Feb 28, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I became fairly enthralled with this book when I reached about the second or third chapter. I felt that the author did a very good job of developing the characters: revealing just enough of what motivated them in order to lend them depth, while allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions about the rightness of each character's actions. I also was intrigued by the use of 1961 Kenya as the setting, which created a very politically charged backdrop for the overall mystery within the book. With all of these positives, however, I was still left with a slight feeling of having been cheated when I read the last page of the book; something felt both rushed and unfinished to me about the conclusion and some things that I thought would be answered were not even addressed again. ( )
  tripawedandlondon | Feb 7, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
The romance and personal relationships are interesting, but the characters never seem to overcome their historical baggage to fully come to life.
added by bell7 | editBooklist, Marta Segal Block
 
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For Sarah, Mark, Isabelle, Sienna, and Henry. In gratitude for endless hours of happiness in the Karoo.
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The Land Rover juddered to a halt.
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In 1961 Kenya, archaeologist Natalie Nelson falls in love with the son of the excavating team's leader, an affair that turns dangerous when she must give evidence in a trial that could spark even more violence and turmoil in the surrounding area.

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