ONE DRY SEASON: In the Footsteps of Mary Kingsley by Caroline Alexander

ONE DRY SEASON: In the Footsteps of Mary Kingsley

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An engagingly self-deprecating account by a young American Rhodes scholar of her attempt to trace the journey through Gabon of that formidable and quintessential Victorian traveller, Mary Kingsley (1862-1900). Already interested in Gabon, Alexander was delighted to discover that Kingsley, a self-taught scientist who in her Travels in West Africa (1897) explained how she ""had decided to spend her respite from domesticity in West Africa,"" was actually writing about Gabon. Alexander, like Kingsley, began and ended her journey in Libreville, on the coast. From there she travelled up the Ogoou‚ river, the greatest strictly equatorial river in the world, to Lambarene, site of Albert Schweitzer's hospital; ventured on into the interior, where after many abortive attempts she finally found the Samba Falls much praised by Kingsley; continued along the river to visit the desolate Talagoua mission ruins, where Kingsley's great missionary friend Dr. Nassau has been stationed; and arrived at last at the small town of Onga, ""the end of the line."" Alexander had hoped, like Kingsley, to travel back to Libreville mostly overland through a region once dominated by the much-feared former cannibals, the Fang; but as the old route no longer existed, she had to return by water. Alexander was also unsuccessful in locating anyone who had ever heard of Kingsley. Never patronizing or judgmental, Alexander writes vividly and affectionately of the people and countryside. Like Kingsley, she is a good sport, ever resourceful and always amused rather than irritated by human foibles. A delightfully unpretentious book.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Knopf