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THE EYE OF THE LEOPARD by Henning Mankell in hardcover at 18.20 euros.
Hans Olofson is the son of a Swedish lumberjack. His childhood was unsettled: an alcoholic father and a mother disappeared, only alive in old photographs.
His adolescence was no easier as he lost both his best friend and his lover tragically. Alone and adrift, as a young man his only desire is to fulfil his lover’s dream and visit the grave of a legendary missionary who survived alone in the remote hills of Northerm Zambia.
On reaching Africa, Olofson is struck by its beauty and mystery. After fulfilling his initial quest, an opportunity of employment in the region tempts him to stay. Time passes quickly and, though dismayed by the attitude of the white population to their adopted country, which is compounded by their weakness to alcohol and malaria, he is interested enough to take up sole responsibility for the farm he manages. For almost two decades, Hans Olofson battles with a hostile environment and a placid but resistant workforce.
Set in the 1970s and 1980s, The Eye of the Leopard explores the relationship between the white farmers and their native workers. Through Olofson’s descent into near mental collapse, it becomes clear that many years spent in a foreign land do not necessarily breed an understanding of its people: a handful of generations of white settlers cannot change a continent underpinned by myth and superstition.
Henning Mankell is Sweden’s best and brightest writer of psychological thrillers and, in The Eye of the Leopard, his skill at delving deep into the minds of his characters and his own love of Africa, makes this a fantastic read.