The Clouds Beneath the Sun: Book summary and reviews of The Clouds Beneath the Sun by Mackenzie Ford

The Clouds Beneath the Sun

By Mackenzie Ford

The Clouds Beneath the Sun
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2010,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

Mackenzie Ford (a nom de plume) was introduced to readers in 2009 with the publication of Gifts of War, which was praised in USA Today as "an absorbing, morally complex read." In a starred review, Library Journal said, "Ford keeps the reader on a knife’s edge as the lies build and the truth is only a word or misstep away. Highly recommended."

Now Ford takes us to Kenya in 1961. As a small plane carrying Natalie Nelson lands at a remote airstrip in the Serengeti, Natalie knows she’s run just about as far as she can from home. Trained as an archeologist, she accepted an invitation to be included in a famous excavating team, her first opportunity to escape England and the painful memories of her past.

But before she can get her bearings, the dig is surrounded by controversy involving the local Masai people—and murder. Compounding the tension, Eleanor Deacon, friend of the Masai, who is leading the excavating mission, watches a rift grow between her two handsome sons. Natalie’s growing attraction to Jack Deacon soon becomes a passionate affair that turns dangerous when she must give evidence in a trial that could spark even more violence and turmoil.

The startling beauty of the Kenyan setting, the tension of loom­ing social upheaval, and the dizzying highs and crushing lows of a doomed love affair are all captured brilliantly on every page of this extraordinary and utterly unforgettable novel.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Complicated parent-child relationships and sibling rivalries add to the complexity of this story, making it ripe for sophisticated book groups. Highly recommended." - Library Journal

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by evelyn
Disappointment
I couldn't get past the stilted writing style, the repetition and the way he has to explain everything. Other books tell you about societies without giving a formal lesson. A very mechanical book. Idea was very interesting, but in the end, I gave up at p.100 and then skipped to the last 2 chapters just to find out what happened in the end.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Terry
The Clouds Beneath the Sun
This book is a great read in terms of the culture and history of Africa. It gave me an understanding of the conflicts of the African people in the 60's and I loved learning about the culture and customs of the Masai people. The political upheaval of the time is described very well. The character development and the emotional depth of the book, however, left me cold. We are never made to understand what motivates any of the characters and why they act as they do. Liked the book but wanted to see character development and emotion!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Christine S. (Highland, UT)
Well Done!
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.

Well done!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by 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.

...20 more reader reviews

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Mackenzie Ford, author of Gifts of War, is the nom de plume of Peter Watson, a well-known and respected historian whose books are published in seventeen languages. He was educated at the Universities of Durham, London, and Rome, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous publications in the United Kingdom. Since 1998 he has been a Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.

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