RULES OF THE WILD by Francesca Marciano


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A debut that takes us into an Africa where—with Marciano as our guide—we are more likely to come upon Bianca Jagger than Nelson Mandela. “Let’s be honest about it,” heroine EsmÇ admits early on. “This is a story about white people in Africa. I am not going to pretend that it is anything else.” To which it might be helpful to add: not merely white people, but exceptionally bored, chic, and unhappy white people, the sort who snort cocaine in Nairobi restaurants and have trouble remembering whether they’ve slept with each other. EsmÇ herself fits in nicely: the Manhattan-bred daughter of a renowned Italian poet, she is taken to Kenya on safari after her father’s death and quickly decides to stay on. It’s not that she falls in love with Africa, exactly’she simply seems to have had her fill of everything else. So, she sends her boyfriend back home and moves in with Adam, the safari guide and big-fame hunter, who takes her on as his assistant and mistress, thereby bringing her into the very narrow confines of the expatriate scene. Here, she makes the rounds, shopping by day and clubbing by night, until she falls for Hunter Reed, a British journalist who covers tribal wars, swills champagne, and tries to expand EsmÇ’s horizons a bit. She becomes his lover but is unable to keep up with his needs and his cynicism. Eventually, she goes home to Italy to put him behind her, only to find him on her doorstep in Rome one day. By the time she returns to Africa she knows there’s no hope that they can make a life for themselves, but hope, in the end, is beside the point: “It’s because of love. Nobody ever moves to Africa for another reason.” Idiotic, hackneyed, unbearably pretentious: Marciano’s portraits of female vanity and masculine self-absorption would provide the makings of a satire worthy of Waugh—were there even the slightest curl of a smile on her lips. (First printing of 50,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40358-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998


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