Cover image for Out of darkness, shining light : a novel
Title:
Out of darkness, shining light : a novel
ISBN:
9781982110338
Physical Description:
303 pages ; 23 cm.
Summary:
'This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.' So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa--the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization--the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart--while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love. --
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ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

"Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a novel that lends voice to those who appeared only as footnotes in history, yet whose final, brave act of loyalty and respect changed the course of it. An incredible and important book by a masterful writer." ​--Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

"This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land." So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa--the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization--the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart--while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gappah (The Book of Memory) uses two distinct voices to tell her version of the remarkable tale of the transportation of doctor and missionary David Livingstone's body from where he died in what is now modern-day Zambia in May of 1873 to Africa's eastern coast so that it could be returned to England. The tale of the 285-day journey is taken up by the sharp-tongued cook Halima on the night of Livingstone's death. She is quick to offer her opinions on other members of the group, such as the untrustworthy Chirango and simpering Ntaoéka. Although she talks about the evils of African slavers and a massacre at Manyuema, in chapters that describe Livingstone's final months, hers is the more lighthearted portion of the narrative. When the self-righteous and self-important Jacob Wainwright takes over to tell the tale of the trek in his journal entries, his poor opinion of his companions just adds to the misery as they face privation in the wilderness, varied receptions in villages, and more death along the road. Readers who enjoy expedition travelogues or smartly drawn characters will appreciate Gappah's winning novel. (Sept.)


Kirkus Review

A rollicking novel that retells the history of British colonial exploration in Africa from the perspective of historical figures who have otherwise been silenced.Zimbabwean writer Gappah (The Book of Memory, 2016, etc.) tells the story of the black attendants who bore the Scottish explorer David Livingstone's corpse from present-day Zambia to the African coast in the late 19th century. As the prologue says, "This story has been told many times before, but always as the story of the Doctor." Gappah turns the tables by making Livingstone's attendants into protagonists. Our heroes are Halima, a young slave woman Livingstone purchased as a partner for his assistant, the abusive and cruel Amoda; and Jacob Wainwright, a former slave from East Africa who was educated by Christian missionaries in Mumbai. Halima is a jovial and headstrong young woman who speaks boisterously despite her status. "Why any man would leave his own land and his wife and children to tramp in these dreary swamps...is beyond my understanding," she wonders about Livingstone. Jacob is Halima's opposite, a self-serious young man who keeps a journal which he hopes will be published in the future. When Livingstone dies of malaria, his attendants decide to carry his body to the coast in a display of loyalty, so that it may be carried back to England. After burying his heart in the village where he died, the band sets off toward Zanzibar in a show of dedication. The arduous journey through hostile terrain gradually erodes their reverence for the doctor, though. Halima begins to wonder how worthy he is of her dedication. "Was he worth it? What were we doing, taking a father to his children when he had let one of those children die?" Meanwhile, Jacob reads Livingstone's journals and finds a man whose anti-slavery ideals clash with his actions as a colonialist explorer. The journey to the coast turns out to be an education in how the band is oppressed by colonial power. Along the way, though, Gappah captures the diverse cultural milieu of colonial Africa with compelling detail. The result is a rich, vivid, and addictive book filled with memorably drawn characters.This is a humane, riveting, epic novel that spotlights marginalized historical voices. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Gappah's (The Book of Memory, 2016) riveting novel opens in the days following the 1873 death of legendary Scottish missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone in an African village. The more than 60 servants in his expedition carry his remains on an arduous 1,500-mile journey to the coast so that his body can be returned to his home country. The first section is told from the perspective of headstrong Halima, Livingstone's cook. Now a free woman, Halima convinces the men in the caravan that the journey is a worthwhile one, despite its significant challenges and conflicts and the group's misgivings. Contrasted with Halima's tale is that of religious Jacob, who narrates the closing account of the group's later struggles as their travels become increasingly perilous. As a stalwart student of Livingstone, young Jacob offers a poised and significant, if appropriately flawed view of the intricacies of his companions' experiences as well as his own motivations. Together, Gappah's contrasting narrators offer a deeply layered exploration of courage, sorrow, and resilience, culminating in a revelatory quest and an entrancing vision.--Leah Strauss Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Zimbabwean author Gappah's second novel (after The Book of Memory) presents the story of David Livingstone's posthumous journey from central Africa to the coast, told through the eyes of the Africans who made the arduous trek with his preserved body. The two primary narrators are Halima, the expedition's cook, who never tires of telling the rest of the company about her earlier life in the court of a sultan, where her mother was a concubine; and the pious Jacob Wainwright, rescued from enslavement and educated by missionaries as a child, who keeps a diary in the style of Pilgrim's Progress and dreams of being ordained so that he can save the souls of his African brethren. As months pass, the company faces disease, different communities (some amicable, others violent), and the internal conflicts endemic to a large group that includes a variety of ethnicities, religions, ambitions, and grudges. VERDICT Gappah decolonizes the legend of Dr. Livingstone by turning the tale inside out, giving voice to those who are overlooked, or dealt with dismissively, in the official narratives. The result is an indictment of the legacy of slavery and colonialism that is also an engrossing adventure story. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis