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Summary

An intimate and moving portrait of a family combined with an account of the events which swept through Africa in the postindependence period.

Aminatta Forna’s intensely personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an African childhood - of an idyll that became a nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of postcolonial Africa, the bitterness of exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father’s stand against tyranny.

Mohamed Forna, a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma, was a new star in the political firmament Sierra Leone as the country faced its future as a fledgling democracy. Always a political firebrand, he was one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. In Aberdeen he stole the heart of Aminatta's mother, to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents, and returned with her to Sierra Leone. But the new ways of Western parliamentary democracy were tearing old Africa apart, giving rise only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-of magnitude. It was not long before Aminatta’s father languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and there was worse to come.

Aminatta’s search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation’s destiny begins among the country's elite and takes her into the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father’s fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation's politicians and judiciary to confront their guilt.

©2002 Aminatta Forna (P)2015 Audible, Ltd.

Critic reviews

"An extraordinary and gripping story...Aminatta Forna’s book glows with compassion. A modern classic, of which her courageous father would have been proud." (Peter Gowin, author of Mukiwa)

What listeners say about The Devil That Danced on the Water

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Confused

This book doesn't know what it wants to be. It is part autobiography/memoir, part official history and part political biography. The story is important and powerful but the narrative struggles to keep track of in what voice Aminatta is writing - she tries to write her own story, her father's story and the story of Sierra Leone without any of them joining together properly. But this is such a shame because the actual story is compelling, fast paced and beautifully brought to life.

3 people found this helpful

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Could do with being edited more strictly

Andoh's lively, intelligent and evocative reading can't save this book from being too long. It rambles on and on, so while horrific tales are told the attention starts to wander. She said that before, when did she say that before, what exactly does she mean here, is it because she is telling it from a child's point of view? While these questions are popping up the story fades. I wkuld highly recommend an abridged version as the story itself is gripping and needs to be told.

3 people found this helpful

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Heart breaking

A very well written story. That is both compelling to hear and Heart breaking.

1 person found this helpful

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Superb!!! Excellently written and narrated

Walking side by side with Aminatta as she explores her past and asks the questions that her 10 year old self couldn’t. Aminatta allows you to see her world, her memories and the dreams of a nation shattered. A tragic story but so well told I am reading it for the third time in 3 weeks. A definite must read!

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Excellent

A very interesting story, very well told. I have only listened to part one so far. Of course, you have to wonder where all of the detail of her life when she was less than six years old come from, but maybe her memory is that detailed. I have been to some of the places mentioned in the story, and I know those details ring true.

I am really enjoying this!

1 person found this helpful

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Is there only one African accent?

The first time I heard Adjoa Andoh narrate was when I listened to her performance of Adiche’s Americanah. I really enjoyed her performance, and felt that it was enhanced by the fact that I thought I was being exposed to an authentic Nigerian accent and that I was developing some insight into a culture I did not know much about. I was disappointed when I started listening to The Devil That Danced on the Water and realized that, in Andoh’s voice, people from Sierra Leone sound the same as people from Nigeria. This does not help to combat the Western perception that “Africa is a country”. I suppose I should have done some research into Andoh before I made assumptions.
The memoir itself was moving and delicately told - however, I found the last three hours were quite heavy going as the author got into the fine details of who said what to whom and I started to lose track.

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You need to emotionally prepare to read this

There is a unique way that only real stories can be insightful and dissatisfying. Life gives justice differently than our clean fiction. I am glad I read this. There were great little pearls of wisdom and historical information. But it was also full of regret that only stories of happiness replaced by trauma have. I don't think this story came at a right time for me to be able to fully appreciate it. on the other hand, this is the book I've made most notes on.

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Heartbreaking and dignified

Beautifully written and read. Aminatta Forna writes a beautifully constructed account of her father's betrayal.

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Remarkable story

Loved every bit of this master piece. Both exhilarating and emotional. Took me back to my younger days growing up under the Southern Africa sun.
Limbani

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intriguing journey

detailed journey of Aminatta Forna''s early life, the environments, the countries, cultures, the people and finally an answer to a life long question

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-03-20

Powerful book about a childhood in Africa and a story of a Childs love for her father

A powerful book about a young girls journey into adulthood and about the history of her father. The tail is engaging and enthralling. Some parts are a bit slow and you wonder at the reasons for the inclusion. Sometimes I couldn’t remember some of the characters for example when the main character is an adult and is a journalist it’s difficult to connect some of the dots. But overall I enjoyed it.

I would recommend this book to read it to like really history and like meeting about the history of Africa and the struggles that went on there do you need during Civil War