The Devil That Danced on the Water: Book summary and reviews of The Devil That Danced on the Water by Aminatta Forna

The Devil That Danced on the Water

A Daughter's Quest

By Aminatta Forna

The Devil That Danced on the Water
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2002,
    403 pages.

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Book Summary

Aminatta Forna's intensely personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an African childhood, an idyll that became the stuff of nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of post-colonial Africa, danger, flight, the bitterness of exile in Britain, and the terrible consequences of her dissident father's stand against tyranny.

Mohamed Forna was a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma. As Sierra Leone faced its future as a fledgling democracy, he was a new star in the political firmament, a man who had been one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. Already a political firebrand and a stylish dresser, he stole the heart of Aminatta's mother, to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents, and returned with her to Sierra Leone.

But as Aminatta Forna shows with compelling clarity, the old Africa was torn apart by the new ways of Western parliamentary democracy, which gave birth only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-of magnitude. It was not long before Mohamed Forna languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and worse was to follow.

Aminatta's search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation's destiny began among the country's elite and took her into the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father's fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation's politicians to confront their guilt.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Reminiscent of Isabelle Allende's House of the Spirits, Forna's work is a powerfully and elegantly written mix of complex history, riveting memoir and damning expos." - PW.

"Forna's stunning memoir is both a tribute to her brave father and an important look at the sad state of politics in Sierra Leone." - Booklist.

"In 1975, Mohamed Forna, a doctor and leading Sierra Leonean dissident, was executed for treason. A quarter century later, his daughter, who was ten when he was arrested, began to investigate his death. Her lucid, exacting memoir recounts indelible scenes: in bed with malaria, she watches a soldier ransack her room; when her stepmother goes to plead for her father's life, Aminatta asks her to get the President's autograph. She interviews the men who gave false testimony against her father, and discerns in their matter-of-fact responses a "lack of expectation" that defines life in Sierra Leone after decades of violence. In a telling episode, her stepmother takes pity on one of these witnesses, who is now destitute, and hires him as a cook. The author wonders if it is in this way, "together under the same roof," that she and her countrymen must learn to live with the past." - The New Yorker.

"Impassioned, lucid, and understandably enraged, The Devil That Danced on the Water illuminates the troubled, tragic history of a country." - Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine.

"A searing indictment of African tyranny mingled with bittersweet childhood memories." - Kirkus.

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Author Information

Aminatta Forna Author Biography

Photo: © Simon Westcott

Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. She is the author of The Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones, The Devil that Danced on the Water, and The Memory of Love, which has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times and Times.

In 2002 Forna helped to build a primary school in her family's village of Rogbonko. The building of the school was the first step in what would become known as the Rogbonko Project: a community effort to create an escape route from poverty through multiple initiatives in the spheres of education, agriculture, infrastructure and health.

Forna is also a trustee of the Royal Literary Fund and sits on the advisory committee of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has also ...

... Full Biography
Link to Aminatta Forna's Website

Name Pronunciation
Aminatta Forna: A-mi-na-tta FOR-na

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