BONES IN THE NILE by Omer Ertur

BONES IN THE NILE

The Omdurman Chronicles

KIRKUS REVIEW

A fictionalized story of the native Sudanese people’s struggle for independence against the British Empire and other colonial forces in order to form the short-lived state of Mahdiya.

A complex saga unfolded at the intersection of the Blue and White Nile Rivers in Northeastern Africa during the Mahdist revolution of late-19th century. What’s more strange, however, is what happened after the revolution had seemingly ended. For those not familiar, the area now known as the Sudan was once controlled by the Egyptians, who were themselves ostensibly subjects of the Ottoman Empire but were in actuality controlled by the British. Thus, a microcosm of 19th-century imperialism existed on the shores of the two Niles, as the Anglo-Egyptian army’s garrison across the river from an old Mahdist fishing town became the crucible of a colonial uprising. The book revels in the intrigue and personal motivations capable of superseding an already bewildering network of alliances and bringing down the leaders of the two factions. Ertur excels at creating three-dimensional characters, whether the stately yet fearsome Muhammed Ahmed or the conspiring Yakub and Fadl al Maula. He rewrites history as fiction and imagines dialogue in the best way possible—with respect for the characters and their intentions. Even more impressive is his cinematic touch with landscapes and battle scenes, from the cool relief of a desert oasis to the jarring image of a mysterious, headless body floating in the river. However, for as well-written and comprehensive as the book is, its subject is still so insular that this work of tremendous merit may struggle to find a wide audience. (Weighing in at 800+ pages, the book is physically imposing as well.) That’s a shame, for with Ertur’s skill and enthusiasm for making history come alive, should he choose to tackle a more widely appreciated subject, that book would stand a good chance of becoming a bestseller. As it is, should you have an interest in the collision of cultures that affected the formation of the state of Mahdiya, this is the book for you.

A thoughtful, diligent and all-around excellent ground-level view of the swirling issues at play in a colonial revolution.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1456320522
Page count: 815pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:




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