It was a by chance buy, one that I am grateful for. Not since reading James Mitchener's 'Centennial' and Alex Hailey's 'Roots' some more than 20 years ago, have I come across a book that's spellbinding and had me fixated. Well, there was Sidney Sheldon's 'If Tomorrow Comes', but that was set in 20th Century. This book, along with 'Centennial' and 'Roots', are epic stories set in a time where anything beyond the horizon's of one's gaze is a mystery very few dared venture, and a taboo for many who do not.
Masterfully crafted words lined the pages of events that were beautifully twisted leaving me to wonder what the next turn of page would lead to. There were times though, I was disappointed - not due to the weakness of the plot - rather due to my anticipation of it. But that, I reckon, is the teasing part leaving me wanting to continue reading until I reach the last page.
Unlike the 2 aforementioned books which were historically-linked, Wilbur Smith draws his own story line in a land once called The Dark Continent. Perhaps due to the continent's stinginess in revealing its history, there were chapters which I would term as murky, especially when the writer tried - perhaps due his own ignorance - to portray Muslims and Islam in a somewhat shady manner. The writer could argue though, that one of the good characters in his book is a Muslim. True. But he also happens to be a Caucasian - a case of white superiority? You draw your own conclusion.
In reading, you may find one or 2 more setbacks which might suggest the writer is an armchair writer - one who writes from knowledge gained from other reads, and not by experience. Still, how can one experience life of a century prior to one? Ironically and coming back to his depiction of Muslims and Islam, were this book written in the 19th century, I would understand it perfectly well. But Wilbur Smith was born in 1933, at the age where instead of war between civilisations, the many people of the world have lost track of their very roots either due to mixed marriage or migration. Hence, a truer picture of Muslims and Islam could perhaps have been written.
Glancing at his biography, he was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), which was once considered a buffer state for the then apartheid regime in South Africa, and hence his knowledge of a land that can be as violent as it is beautiful.
Make no mistake though, I love his narration and I do recommend this book to book lovers, as much as I intend to purchase more Wilbur Smith's other titles. What makes his writing appealing to me was that I was moved - transported - to another time and place without any visual corruption as when one watch a movie or mini-series based on a novel. What saddens me however, if ever this title is made into a movie, the production may not stick faithfully to the writing, as was the case of Frederick Forsythe's 'Icon' and many others. So my suggestion to my friends, get the book first; 777 pages of pure reading pleasure.
Just in case there is a mind or two wondering why I am writing this, well, I will soon be parting with the book. InsyAllah, by tomorrow afternoon, it would have been wrapped nicely to be given as a present to someone I hold very dear to me. As a Muslim, I do hold to the belief that when one want to give something (sedekah or hadiah), then it is best to give that one holds dear, insyAllah.
By the way Doc TA, should you ever read this book, I could imagine a young you in Dorian Courtney, one of the central figure of this book. I, would off course be Jim, the nephew and, in spirit, Louisa as the recipient of this book gift tomorrow, insyAllah.
Woopsie! Ter-mistake! Doc, Dorian Courtney is supposed to be about the age you are now - that's young and good looking :)