It is 1884. In Khartoum, General Gordon stands on the roof of his fortress as the city is besieged. He has vowed to fight the Mahdi to the death. At his side is the boy he rescued from the English dockyardslums - his reluctant last ally. Approaching with the Camel Corps is a young doctor who has joined the expedition to rescue Gordon. As the men make agonising progress across the desert, John Clarke struggles to be the hero of his imagining, while his abandoned wife, Mary, troubles his conscience. Back in London, as controversy rages over the expedition, Mary finds herself adrift and isolated. Her only release comes from laudanum, an addiction that will take her into Victorian London's darkest corners.
An Honourable Man is a novel of extraordinary power that combines the intimate and the epic, exploring the folly of Empire through the fine grain of human experience and emotion.
©2012 Gillian Slovo (P)2011 Hachette Digital
Khartoum in 1884. Very descriptive and enjoyable, you can almost feel the sun and sand on your skin, a bit gruesome in parts. Khartoum 1884 General Gordon has vowed to fight the Mahdi to the death. Approaching with the Camel Corp. is a young doctor who has joined the expedition to rescue Gordon - story switches from John Clark the doctor to his wife left behind in London struggling with a Laudanum addiction that takes her into Victorian London's shady parts.
The whole story was brought to life for me by Peter Kenny's reading, the different voices are so well done and gives each character life. Peter Kenny is an outstanding reader, and I will certainly look for audio books narrated by him again.
Instead of an Upstairs/Downstairs view, this gives us the dichotomy between the inside life of a middle class Victorian lady, "an angel of the hearth," versus the outside life of the honourable gentlemen -- all set to the background of a good historical tale.
This is no comedy of manners or Victorian potboiler: It shows the darkness of the Empire and of patriarchy, for both oppressor and oppressed -- The characters are isolated by gender, class, Empire, and all suffer, but can still make honourable/good decisions, or not.
Not a light listen, but it puts some meat on the bones of the contempory written, VIctorian set novel, and asks big questions that transcend the setting.
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