Rating: 4 out of 5
Ethiopia… The name itself brings up certain thoughts, certain ideas. Perhaps for some, the association is with the Nile while for others it could be Haile Selassie whose name might have a far wider recognition than the country he served. This book, however, did not overly describe it’s affiliations and as such I picked it up without knowing it had to do with the country. I did not even know which period it would end up describing. All I knew was the Wilbur Smith likes writing about Africa…
So, one can wonder at my reaction when the pages turned on and I realized that indeed, we would be looking at Ethiopia and the mid-1930’s. Given I chose to review this ahead of several others that are in my list, I’d characterize it as ‘unalloyed joy’. The book did not disappoint, either. Very readable, it covers three Europeans who end up in service to the Crown Prince and their actions in getting to the country with contraband goods and then the beginning of the Italian invasion.
The Italians, in fact, also deserve a mention. While I know that some of the people — say Generals Emilio de Bono and Pietro Badoglio — were representative of their real personalities, most of the lower-ranking people were fictional. Yet, the characters were believable, if perhaps over-exaggerated, in the author’s wish (open to misinterpretation) to make the Italian Fascists look conceited. I truly enjoyed reading about the adventures of Count Aldo Belli though I often hoped karma would get him. Read the book to find out if it did!
As such, this has been one of my favourite novels of this year. However, the reduced star must be commented on: I found the author’s overt need to sexualize everything entirely unnecessary. Even scenes which should have been terrifying were turned into jokes on the main female character and her body. This took us further from the considered historical adventure to a book that I have a lot more reservations about — especially for whom this is appropriate.