DARKEST ENGLAND by Christopher Hope


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 Long known for his satirical bent, South African writer Hope (Black Swan, 1987, etc.) here merrily turns colonialism inside out, sending a Bushman on a mission to the Queen of England--a perilous journey indeed among the hostile, uncivilized natives in that sodden land. The story, set in 1993, is narrated, in the unflappable tradition of 19th-century-explorer narratives, by David Mungo Booi, selected by his people to visit the Queen (he's the only one with a knowledge of English) to remind her of her grandmother Victoria's pledge to protect them from harm. But David's misadventures begin as soon as he reaches England. Waylaid at customs and transported to a detention center, he persists in believing it a royal guesthouse until he's led out in shackles to be deported. Saved on the tarmac by a defrocked Anglican Bishop claiming to be his sponsor, David quickly learns the limits of English hospitality when the man's daughter takes too keen an interest in him. Betrayed by his host to a local lord who keeps an African menagerie on his estate, David becomes the object of a hunt himself one day, and only a rescue by a band of New Age gypsies keeps him from the hounds. Further detours can't keep him from his royal mission, and he revisits the ex-Bishop for his gear--among which is a pouch of gems. The sight of the treasure transforms his frothing ex-host into an unctuous, anxious adviser. Cashing them in for a satchel of banknotes, the man of God travels to London with David, persuades him to spend freely to obtain his goal, then departs. In time, however, having emptied his satchel without the desired end, David sneaks into Buckingham Palace, where he finally manages to see the Queen--who isn't quite what he expected. An oddity, ample and keen of wit, and with some wonderful moments--but its droll, sharp, sometimes despairing tone is only sporadically sustained.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0-393-04040-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996