Chris G. (New Albany, Ohio)
The Clouds Beneath the Sun
It's 1961 and we are in Kenya. Dr. Natalie Nelson has just arrived on an airstrip in the midst of the Serengeti to join an excavation team to begin the dig of her dreams. As an archeologist she is excited by the prospects but she is also taking the opportunity to flee dealing with the memories and pain of past trauma.
Little does she know she has stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Kenya is beginning its journey to independence, a controversy and a murder has turned up involving the local Masai people and the leader of the dig, Eleanor Deacon is watching an irreparable schism grow between her sons. And then there is Natalie's growing attraction to Jack that goes from passionate affair to turmoil when she is forced to present evidence in a trial that very well could lead to a rebellion.
The social upheaval of the times and the tribal customs of the Masai are well presented as are many of the dig protocols. I found the methodical pace to be daunting at times, but I suppose the pace echoes the care and slowness carried out on a dig. But one hopes for a little more speed in the delivery when dealing with murder as opposed to a procedural. All in all a good book but I am a bit undecided as to whether I would go for a second book by this author.
Alice W. (Sacramento, CA)
Clouds Beneath the Sun
I chose this book because I have Masaai friends and have lived in a Masaai Village.
I found the descriptions of Kenya close to those in my memories. However the Masaai were not described as I think of them...of course, the story was set at pre-independence and I was there two years ago.
The story was relatively interesting, however the writer's methods were annoying to me. It seemed that he was writing a soap opera...as he periodically would inject a series of questions all lined up in a row such as: will she tell him the entire truth, when will the Land Rover arrive, who will come to the trial? What? This over and over as though we might put the book down at that point and return tomorrow , same time, same station and resume reading the story. This was definitely an odd writing technique.
I also tired of reading about the perspiration between Natalie's breasts. I wanted to float her a handkerchief to deal with the problem as it seemed to plague her no matter what the incident...that along with her hands going to her throat, or her recurring bouts with inner rage. Oh please...
The plot? well...pretty predictable except at the end.
Did I enjoy it...? Sort of...I didn't push aside other things in my life to get back to the book and read.
Christine S. (Highland, UT)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It took me to a place with vivid imagery. It was educational and I feel like I know more about the 1960s in the political Kenyan setting, more about the beautiful landscape and wild animals of Africa, more about an excavating working archaeological team, more about tribal laws vs. written laws.
The story itself was secondary to all the other characteristics mentioned above. Waiting for the trial throughout over half of the book, turned out disappointing. The last chapters of the book were exciting, but it could have been written at a better pace. It felt as through the last chapters were packed into the book for tidying up all the loose ends.
All of this being said, I actually thought the story "might" have been based on an account of an actual dig. I haven't been able to find anywhere to prove my theory.
Marta M. (Tustin, CA)
The Clouds Beneath the Sun
I was intrigued with this book when I saw it on the First Impressions list. My daughter went to Kenya to work with Masai and Kikuyu orphans and had been there since January. This is how I like to learn culture and history, through a story. I enjoyed this book immensely but gave it a four because at times it dragged. With what my daughter was sharing with me I found the facts of the setting and the people to be spot on. I liked the writing and I thought the details of the dig to be enchanting.
Hilary H. (Tucson, AZ)
The Clouds Beneath the Sun
I was anticipating liking this book as I've enjoyed a number of books set in various parts of Africa. Though I've not been to Kenya, I have been to other countries in southern Africa. The topic and setting were appealing. I found the first half of the book to be slow - a mix of historical fact, good description of the countryside, interesting views on politics and archaeology, and eventually a love story - but it could have moved a bit faster. Some of the characters are strongly developed though you are left wanting more about others. The trial near the end talked about the passion at the gorge but I think there could have been more about which to be really passionate. It was a good summer read. I liked it but didn't love it.
Barbara S. (Brick, NJ)
Tell Me More
This is my first book trip to Kenya and it leaves me with a longing for more tales of the Maasai and their culture. Ordinarily I would not search for a book about archaeology but found this book utterly fascinating. The author transports you to the dig location, Kihara gorge, and paints a perfect picture even though I have never seen one. The story tied in beautifully with the setting. If you have a "passion" in life, this book is for you. I am adding this to my Book Club selections for 2011.
Mary Lou C. (Shenandoah Junction, WV)
This is the second book I've read by this author. I really hoped this one would be better. The author may be a well known and respected historian, but I think he should stick with writing non-fiction. His lame attempts at romance only cheapen the story for me. I found the background and location interesting, but the characters disappointed me.