BookBrowse Reviews Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Ancestor Stones

A Novel

by Aminatta Forna

Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2007, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A timeless portrait of the lives of a family of independent, spirited African women over the last century of dramatic cultural change. 1st Novel

Forna's first novel is told through the alternating stories of four strong women that, in combination, powerfully capture the social and political history of the small West African country of Sierra Leone through at least 60 troubled years.

The story opens in 2003 with Abie, a young woman born and raised in Sierra Leone but now settled in London with her European husband and their children, opening a letter from her aunts informing her that they are giving her the family coffee plantation, and requesting that she return for a visit. It is not just the plantation they want to give her. On her return, the aunts share with Abie their own stories as if they were lifting "the past from their own shoulders" and handing it to her, so that she might continue to pass the stories through the generations.

My only criticism of this gorgeous, powerful book is that I found it difficult to distinguish between the voices of the four women, so instead of reading the book as a series of alternating short stories told by the various aunts, I simply skipped through reading all the stories by one woman, and then going back to the beginning to read about the next aunt - essentially turning the book into four interconnected novellas as opposed to sixteen interconnected short stories.

About the author
Ancestor Stones is Aminatta Forna's first work of fiction. Formerly a TV reporter and journalist she is also the author of Mother of All Myths (1998) and the memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water (2002) which told of her childhood growing up in Sierra Leone during the country's transition from democracy to dictatorship. In 1974, when she was ten years old, Siaka Stevens, President of Sierra Leone, sent militiamen to her family's house to arrest her father - a former doctor who had gone into politics as a member of Stevens' government, but resigned, having accused Stevens of corruption and cheating the World Bank, and formed an opposition party. Three years later he was arrested, convicted and hung, and his wife and children fled, eventually escaping to England.

One of the questions that troubled Forna was why it took 3 years from the time of her father's opposition to when he was arrested. As she pieced together the history of the country with her own family's history she realized that this was the time it had taken Stevens to systematically establish his dictatorship - emasculating the army, forcing the chief of police out, and establishing his own militia.

She returned to Sierra Leone in 2000 when a letter from her father was discovered. Just before he and eight others were due to be executed they were given an opportunity to write a letter pleading for clemency. Only her father and one other man refused and instead wrote a letter recording their views on the history and future of Sierra Leone - her father wrote prophetically of a country descending into anarchy. She also discovered that her father knew of his imminent arrest but had refused all chances of escape and that all the witnesses at his trial had been paid to testify against him.

When asked how her memoir was received by her family and in Sierra Leone she replied, "There are no bookshops in Sierra Leone. I have shipped some copies out myself, as the publishers have no interest out there. My family have been very supportive and realize that the importance of the story outweighs the importance of some of the less flattering representation of some people within it. My aim in writing it as a very personal account was to encourage people who would not normally be interested in African issues to read about the continent."

As an author she feels that it is her role to archive, flesh out, challenge and repossess history, giving conflicts character and giving a voice to the dead - a role she started with The Devil That Danced on the Water and continues in Ancestor Stones.

This review was originally published in September 2006, and has been updated for the September 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Ghachar Ghochar
    by Vivek Shanbhag
    The Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) that has dominated economic news headlines over the past decade is the...
  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

A library is thought in cold storage

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -