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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Equatoria

by
Tom Dreyer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Equatoria



Title: Equatoria
Author: Tom Dreyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 157 pages
Original in: Afrikaans
Availability: Equatoria - US
Equatoria - UK
Equatoria - Canada
  • Afrikaans title: Equatoria
  • Translated by Michiel Heyns

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Our Assessment:

B : fine if slightly strained quest-tale

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Mail & Guardian . 26/11/2008 Jane Rosenthal


  From the Reviews:
  • "It starts off lightly and links the quest for the mythical unicorn with the search for the elusive okapi, but it loses impetus in the middle when it starts to be short on real detail and the narration becomes rather bald." - Jane Rosenthal, Mail & Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Equatoria two Englishmen, Willis Reed and Guy Nichols, go searching for specimens in the Belgian Congo in 1912. Willis, in particular, is eager to capture an okapi (Guy is satisfied with butterflies and the like). As he explains:

The okapi to me is to me an escape, an opportunity to prove that there is something to me after all.
       To some extent the book is about the adventure of the hunt, going deep into a strange bit of nature, but the English scientists are rather impatient and assume that everything will simply work out in the orderly fashion it should:
He had trusted for so long to science and to the ineluctability of what was awaiting him: how could the okapi fail to co-operate ?
       The law of the jungle -- and the dark shadow cast by colonisation (which itself only reaches so far) -- make for an unpredictable and complicated world.
       Willis comes there thinking he can stand above what the Belgian Congo represents and has become:
     "If it's wrong, it's wrong," the veteran continued, "but you and I are after all in the same boat. The howitzers of Omdurman, the blood of Rourke's Drift, the things that happened in these parts ... A common guilt binds us,"
     "I'm not like you," Willis said.
       Willis wants to believe that, but the General (and we) know better .....
       Willis is also attracted to a woman he meets before venturing into the jungle, and becomes obsessed with her; like his okapi-obsession, it is an ideal rather than the reality that he's after. In a nice touch, the okapi is a would-be unicorn -- but, of course, it necessarily turns out to be an entirely different creature. There can be no fairy-tales (or fairy-tale-romances) here.
       Capturing a specimen turns out not to be all that difficult, and yet that is when their difficulties really begin. Keeping that illusion alive in these circumstances, between native Africa and primal jungle and Western 'civilisation', proves impossible.
       Dreyer does all this fairly well, and even if it becomes a rather dark and ugly tale -- well, what other sort of tale can one expect from the depths of the Belgian Congo ? Still, it all feels a bit forced and contrived, as if he came across the material and the stories of the elusive okapi and tried to build a fiction out of that. He does so quite well -- in part, but not quite across the whole. Too often he strains to impart his messages; a bit more subtlety would have helped.
       Still, even if at times it is too basic and entirely straight-forward, it doesn't go on too long and is a perfectly presentable jungle and colonial tale, with a few nice colourful touches.

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Links:

Equatoria: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Tom Dreyer was born in 1972.

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© 2008 the complete review

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