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 X
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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Days When Birds Come Back
    by Deborah Reed

    A graceful testament to endurance, rebuilding, and the possibilities of coming home.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

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.