Robyn Scott's story of moving at the age of seven to Botswana with her adventure-seeking parents is described by Alexander McCall Smith as "beautifully written" and "acutely observed." It is that and more. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is an exquisitely rendered portrait of Africa, and of childhood, written by an astonishing new talent.
The Scotts are truly one of the most unusual families you are likely to meet. Robyn's father is a flying doctor who always wanted to be a vet. Her mother believes in holistic medicine and homeschooling. Both are deeply eccentric, and under their affectionate but relaxed guidance, life for the children is a daily adventure of the kind usually confined to storybooks.
Storybooks-or being read to from them-comprise, it turns out, most of their homeschooled education. That, and searching the surrounding bush for animals (poisonous and otherwise) to let loose in their schoolroom. As a result of the absolute freedom of spirit, thought, and movement that they are given, all three children grow into fascinating, if rather eccentric, characters in their own right.
When the family moves to a game farm bordering South Africa, the children become more aware of the darker undercurrents of life in Africa. Here the apartheid mind-set lives on in many of their white South African neighbors. And when at fourteen Robyn begins conventional school in neighboring Zimbabwe, she sees more of the racism initially only glimpsed in Botswana. AIDS also rears its head. Long witnessed by Robyn's father at his village clinics, the existence of the disease is acknowledged by the government too late-only as death, on an unprecedented scale, begins to devastate this peaceful and prosperous African country.
Robyn Scott is an extraordinarily gifted writer and storyteller. Like the witch doctors who compete with her father for patients, she weaves a spell from the start. Her funny, moving memoir, told with clear-eyed unsentimental affection, is about an idyllic childhood and a family's enthusiasm for each other and the world around them, with the essence of Africa-both beautiful and challenging-infusing every page.
Most of us read for many reasons. Escape, adventure, understanding of other cultures, but always for a good story. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, the story of a remarkable family, will give you all of the above and then some. I highly recommend it. (Reviewed by Vy Armour).
She has no sordid revelations, no shocking surprises - just a raconteur's talent for making any story she tells interesting.
A colorful, occasionally shocking fish-out-of-water memoir.
Publishing News - Sue Baker
If I had just two words allowed for this title, they’d be “stock it”, but I’d go on to say that this is a real gem – an excellent hand-sell title. Nobody could fail to love this story of an eccentric childhood, so movingly and joyously described by Scott.
Michela Wrong, author of In The Footsteps of Mr Kurtz
An elegant, evocative, poignant, beautifully-written piece of work.
Alexander McCall Smith
Both a wonderful memoir of an exotic childhood and a striking portrait of one of the world's most beguiling countries. A gem of a book.
Aminatta Forna, author of The Devil that Danced on the Water and Ancestor Stones
Captivating, candid and utterly fresh. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle is a story of childhood, tenderness and joy. It lets in the light.
Since independence in 1966, the
former British Protectorate of
Bechuanaland has transformed
itself from one of the
continent's poorest nations into
one of its most prosperous.
Botswana's vast diamond wealth
has underpinned this boom
(Jwaneng, the world's largest
and richest diamond mine, was
discovered when termites looking
for water brought grains of
diamond to the surface), but,
making it almost unique among
its neighbors, the money has
been carefully spent and
reinvested in infrastructure,
education and health by a
The small population fewer
than two million in an area
about the size of France has
also contributed to the...
There is considerable excitement at The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. A cobra has been found in Precious Ramotswe's office. Then a nurse from a local medical clinic reveals that faulty bloodpressure readings are being recorded there. And Botswana has a new advice columnist, Aunty Emang, whose advice is rather curt for Mma...
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