A lushly atmospheric, seductive tale out of Africa, Shand's debut features an American academic, his frustrated wife, and the tall handsome stranger who enters their midst, befriends them both, and awakens her heart.
Agnes is at sixes and sevens in her roles as a young mother, academic's wife, part-time teacher, and American in Uganda in the 1960s. She lives, seemingly, for the sensual distraction that men in her life, other than husband John, can provide. There was a frisson between her and her African servant, Odinga, until he left abruptly to look for his wife, and when she first set eyes on Wulf, a Polish linguist, something sparked between them too. In the time it took her to learn who Wulf was and vice versa, however, he had become good friends with John. That and the fact that he'd left his wife and child behind the Iron Curtain in Poland make the initial contacts between Agnes and Wulf awkward, yet the heat of their shared passion soon melts all barriers, allowing them to find bliss in each other's arms. When John, caught out of the country as civil war breaks out in Uganda, can’t return, Wulf moves in with Agnes and family to protect them. Although solemn Odinga, now back, disapproves of the new arrangement, Agnes silences him with a touch. The borders reopen, John comes home, and the affair continues; only a letter from Poland can take Wulf away, and when it does, he's unable to return to Agnes. The whole sorry truth soon comes out, with both John and Agnes publicly humiliated before they decide to follow the white exodus out of Idi Amin's new Uganda.
The images of Africa, its people as well as its places, are transfixing, but the grand passion and other pale human endeavors depicted here seem tawdry and all too familiar beside them.