The storytelling reminded me of sitting in the Lapa with Grandad telling stories. Gripping, exciting and something I looked forward to - just like reading this book every night. I recommend it to anyone whose parents did their children an injustice by trying to live their lives vicariously through their children. Also taught me more about the melting pot of cultures that established Zanzibar as it is today. For the South African male who was conscripted into the senseless bush war against the "Rooi Gevaar" and "Swart gevaar" there are some historical insights. I gave the book four stars because I like the pace and authenticity of the storytelling. It's a good read.
Not a word is wasted in this beautifully written book. Historically interesting and gives an in depth insight into human nature. I think everyone will find something of themselves in the narrative. What is so powerful, also, is what isn't explicitly described. This is skill indeed. Very emotionally charged and a must read.
Beautifully written with an easy style, a fascinating subject, and to be recommended to anyone especially people who have grown up in Africa .
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a brilliant book - dense prose and brilliantly written. By Nicky Webber
This is a brilliant book - dense prose and brilliantly written! Outstanding read - was glued to it from the moment I opened the first page!! I had it specially posted to me by a friend in South Africa so have been reading one of limited editions. I am sure this will be a huge success and will make an amazing movie!!
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical tale. By kat2u61
A wondrous, poetic and hauntingly vivid tale which brought me both to tears and laughter, and cost me a sleepless night as I simply could not put it down. What a beautifully written, historically profound and entertaining story! Definitely not an ordinary man.
5.0 out of 5 stars Painted Devils and the Land of Ordinary Men. By CM Dreyer
Brilliant book. Bought it and read it in two days. Beautifully written and the author has an excellent command of English. Wonderful descriptions and characterisation. I predict this will become a best seller.
5.0 out of 5 stars No ordinary self portrait. By Sean Reynolds
A fascinating story about troubled times. Lucidly written with a wonderful underlying sense of dualism: fear and bravado, guts and timidity, aloofness and deep involvement. I struggled to put it down.
5.0 out of 5 stars Days of Long Ago. By A. Chappel (Adelaide, Australia)
This is a poignant tale from the time of colonial Africa, the time of cruel boarding schools when the British Empire was in its final gasp. Tuan Marais is a child of an unusual and wayward mother, who whisks him away to live with her and his stepfather in Zanzibar in 1955. She instills in her son a sense of difference (she decries the ordinary) but gives him little in the way of skills to deal with swimming against the tide. It is interesting to see how little she understands about his life and the challenges he faces. Even the name he is given is a certain self indulgence on her part.
Marais describes a fascinating world: the heady mix of culture in Zanzibar before the revolution, the enchanted life of freedom for a young man at ease on the coral reefs and sands of tropical paradise. And when he is wrenched from his home by the 1964 Zanzibar revolution he is divorced from his own soul. The painful journey he then travels is not fully described but it has all the hallmarks of a refugee struggling to find meaning in a foreign world.
Much later, grey-haired, Marais goes back to Zanzibar but his Eden has disappeared, his youth has fled and he struggles to a certain acceptance and resolution.
I found this story most thoughtful and worthwhile. It is an honest painful tale that remains to haunt you with memories of those magic, too few years of youth when anything seems possible. Perhaps the closest to happiness we ever are.