Monday, August 2, 2010

The Clouds Beneath The Sun


What I enjoyed the most about Mackenzie Ford's novel Gifts of War was the moral question that was at the heart of the novel. In his new to us but published in the U.K. prior to Gifts novel, The Clouds Beneath The Sun there is also a morality issue at the center of the story. This isn't a simple choice of do the right thing or profit by the evil path. Ford has made everything more complex and dangerous. There is a clear right and a wrong but the potential aftermath of either choice and how the characters got to where a choice was needed is all carefully mapped out in beguiling grays.

The Clouds Beneath The Sun is set at an archaeological dig in early 1960's Kenya. It's the end of colonial rule, the continuation of tension filled race relations, tribal war, the discovery of "The Cradle of Mankind" all mixed together in this novel with characters who have hidden agendas and secret pasts. It's a very interesting stew and into it comes young Natalie Nelson from Cambridge on her first dig. Through Natalie we see not only the plot unfold but she is also our guide to the beauty and desperation of the country and the wholly absorbing elements of the dig.

This is no marriage of Out of Africa and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Clouds  actually reads more like a classic American western. The lone female pursued by the men of the town determined to make her own way despite threats from the Native Americans, powerful landowners and a hostile environment. Will she do the right thing and save the souls of the town or the water rights from the greedy cattle baron or will she choose to do the easy road, avoid the High Noon moment and preserve the status quo? You'll have to read The Clouds Beneath The Sun in order to find out but not to worry you'll enjoy doing that.


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