Saturday, 19 July 2008

One year old

It's my first anniversary today! One year since I decided to start a second bookblog on Blogspot (my other is on Live Journal) after umming and ahhing about it for months. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, I've met such lovely people and now treat this as my main bookblog rather than a secondary one. The other thing of note to mention is that this is my 100th. post. I'm not sure whether 100 posts in exactly one year is good or bad but it's quite coincidental that they happened on the same day!

Anyhow, the book I've just finished is very worthy of this most auspicious moment - it's The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. I first read about this book here on Robin's blog. It sounded like my kind of book and I was lucky enough to get a copy via the Devon library catalogue.



Fi is an American librarian who isn't ready to settle down yet - is not, in fact, sure that she ever will be. So she applies for a job in Africa, part of which turns out to be taking books to outlying, remote villages in the African bush. The mode of transport is Siti, a rather ornery camel, and with Fi goes Mr. Abasi, a librarian who is not as keen on spreading the word about reading as he might be and who thinks the camel is possessed by the spirit of his dead mother.

The main story takes place in a village known as Mididima; the tribe living there is nomadic but settled for the moment. The people there are split about whether the books that arrive once a fortnight are a good thing or a bad thing. The elders are afraid their way of life is threatened by too much knowledge of the outside world. Others feel the village needs to be more forward thinking. We meet Matani, the school teacher, and his straying wife, Jwahir; Neema and her grandaughter, Kanika, who wants to leave the village to become a teacher in the city - and Abayomi and his two sons one of whom is known as 'Scar Boy' because of an horrific attack by a hyaena when he was a toddler.

The books have been donated by a big American corporation and one of the strict rules is that all books *must* be returned at the end of the fortnight. But two books go missing. The boy borrowing them is 'Scar Boy' and, for some unknown reason, the boy won't give the books back. Fi goes to stay in the village hoping to help retrieve the books but somehow things don't turn out just as she thought they would...

It's for little gems like this that I religiously read other people's blogs. I would never have known about this if I hadn't seen it on Robin's blog and that would have been a terrible shame as it is delightful. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies' Detective Agency books, set in Botswana. I don't think the country is ever mentioned here but there is, apparently, a Camel Bookmobile in operation in Kenya. And, although this does seem at times like a bit of a cosy read, it actually isn't. There are some valid points to be made about the effect of western civilisation upon indigenous tribes and about the role of women in these tribes in the 21st. century. And the answer to the question, 'Are books necessarily a wonderful thing?' is not as cut and dried as you might think. The unexpected ending brought a real lump to my throat and I applaud the author for not going the obvious route. A gorgeous, thought provoking read.

19 comments:

Quixotic said...

Happy bloggiversary!

The book sounds interesting. I have yet to try the Ladies' Detective Agency books, although I do keep hearing good things about them.

Kay said...

Cath, many congratulations to you on your 1-year annivarsary! I love your blog and check here frequently.

I think I will get THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE from my library while I am off. I had heard of it before and thought I had a copy, but I can't find it. Anyway, thanks for a great review. I look forward to this one!

Robin said...

Happy 1-year anniversary, Cath! Boy, that year went by quickly! I'm glad you liked The Camel Bookmobile. It definitely is a book that makes you think, as well as being very enjoyable.

DesLily said...

yippee! Happy Blogversary!! and congrats on the 100th post!

This October will be 3 yrs for me. Your post made me go look to check how many posts I have ..as of today it's 941! good lord! But I didn't do book reviews in the beginning.. that only started abit over a year ago.. before that was "whatever" and "memories"

monix said...

Congratulations on the anniversary and the centenary, Cath. Your blog has been one of the special finds of the last year for me.

I'm pleased to read your review of The Camel Bookmobile, it is on my wishlist and your praise of it will push it up the pile. I look forward to reading it when the babysitting ends.

Cath said...

Quixotic: Thank you! People seem to either love or hate the Ladies' Det. Agency books. They're a very gentle depiction of life in Botswana rather than hard crime books. Most of the serious crime fans I know don't care for them much - but not all.

Hi Kay, I hope things are going well with you. And thanks for your congrats and kind words. I hope you enjoy The Camel Bookmobile as much as I did - I would call it a good convalescent type book.

Hi Robin, thanks for your review of this book - I would never have heard of it otherwise. It certainly did make me think... and that ending!

Thanks, Pat! I was looking to see how long I've known you and I think I first started visiting your blog in September '07. So, not quite a year. 941 posts in 3 years is quite some achievement! Wow.

Thanks, M, it's nice of you to say so.

I was really very smitten with this book and would happily recommend it to all book lovers as it's one of those 'books about books' if you know what I mean. Hope the babysitting is going well!

Juliet said...

Sorry I'm late, but Happy Blogversary from me!

Read Warbler has been on my daily blog-surfing round since I first discovered it (which can't have been long after you began, in fact). It's such an inspired name and I love the little Bewick illustration. And of course the Dickinson quote sums up the Meaning of Life for us bibliophiles! I especially love seeing your charity shop hauls and hearing about the vastness of your TBR pile - because you make me feel less guilty about my own Little Weakness!

Marg said...

Happy Blogiversary!

I read this book a while ago and thought it was a good read. Interesting comparison to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I hadn't picked that myself, but I can see how you could have!

Cath said...

Hi Juliet, thanks for your kind words, 'tis always nice to be appreciated. :-D Yes, I think we're two of a kind when it comes to charityshopitis - I recognised a kindred spirit as soon as I met you. I must be due another 'recent acquisitions' post soon mustn't I?

Hi Marg, thank you. I thought the atmosphere in this book was quite similar to the Detective Agency books, that kind of laid back, heat-fuelled, 'Africa' feeling to it. Not all authors seem to be able to do it when writing about Africa. Sometimes it could be anywhere.

Jeane said...

Happy blogiversary! Thanks to you, I am now adding this book to my TBR. It sounds wonderful.

Susie Vereker said...

Happy anniversary! Sounds an interesting and unusual book too.

Cath said...

Thanks, Jeane. I don't think you'll be sorry if you decide to try and find the book.

Hi Susie and thank you. Yes, it is quite an unusual book, the author is a journalist and has done a couple of books about the middle east I believe. This is her first foray into African literature.

Nan said...

Congrats Robin! I so love reading your reviews, and this book sounds great. Such an interesting idea.

orchidus said...

Congratulations on your first blog anniversary! :] The concept of the Camel Bookmobile sounds fascinating. I never heard of such a thing until now. The author really does bring up an interesting point about the consequences of knowledge. Ah, thanks for the great review! I'm looking forward to reading this sometime.

Cath said...

Thanks, Nan! :-)

Orchidus: Thank you, the year has gone by so fast. I love the idea of books being taken to isolated villages in Africa but we tend to assume it's wonderful when the fact is, it's more complicated than that. I like books that make you think.

Framed said...

Congratulations on your blogiversary. I wonder when mine is?? This books sounds wonderful and it's going on my list.

Cath said...

Thanks, Framed! This book *is* delightful and really worth the trouble of searching out, imo.

Tara said...

Congratulations times two! I've also read a great review of this...and I'm really interested in it. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

Cath said...

Thanks, Tara!