"Black Volta" by Pete K.J.
This superbly written fiction tells the interwoven tales of two people who travel to Ghana from different parts of North and South America, for very different reasons – one a Ghanaian emigrant, the other with a very intriguing reason to return to a country he once lived in. As the tale develops, both start to reveal gripping and promising backstories, and as the possibilities begin to take shape, a degree of tension grows beneath the surface; I found myself utterly gripped. That said, the book does not actually go in any of the ways I was anticipating - though to tell the truth this fact actually makes it better; Black Volta benefits from remaining downplayed. It is not melodrama but perhaps only just really drama, with an enthralling teaser of a plot. Ultimately, though, the real purpose of this tale as a whole is actually more profound than any of its parts.
The characters’ life stories are told against the backdrop of an affectionate, detailed account of the country’s rich culture, its warm and friendly people, and the casual corruption permeating every level of a nation making fast progress; throughout, the hospitality, generosity and culinary offerings of the people of Ghana are a delight to behold. Joint main character Liz is something of a foil to the laid-back attitude of her people, having worked extremely hard to make a professional life in the States, in order to look after a wayward family back home, whilst American Carlos has, arguably, gone the opposite way in life. The book is perhaps a touch long, and a vivid slow burner for its duration, but generally it is a more thoughtful tale of guilt, redemption and the ultimate affect that the two characters have on each other’s lives – despite a relatively brief and tenuous connection.
KJ is a superb author, drawing the reader in effortlessly
as he writes. The language and narrative are top quality, written with
eloquence and articulation, by someone who is clearly a professional, and a well-educated
lover of travel, food and cultures. If
you are someone of similar tastes, who prefers their fiction mature,
considerate and understated, I am in no doubt that you will like it, too. I have never considered the notion of visiting
Ghana before, but after reading this excellent book, I wonder if I might just
reconsider. If nothing else, KJ plants a
seed in the reader’s mind, that the wonderful people of this African country
might just possess a warmth and kindness that is seldom seen in many other
parts of the world – for this alone, I suspect he will feel that he was
achieved what he set out to with this work.
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In : Book Reviews
Tags: pete-k-j ghana african-culture africa drama