Giles Foden Ladysmith Book

Giles Foden Ladysmith Book

Ladysmith

In the dying days of the 19th century, the world s eyes turned to the small South African town of Ladysmith, whose inhabitants spent 118 days besieged by Boer forces while waiting for General Buller s army Giles Foden tells his tale through a host of characters There s the Irish hotelier Leo Kiernan and his daughters, Bella and Jane the barber Antonio Torres, from Portu In the dying days of the 19th century, the world s eyes turned to the small South African town of Ladysmith, whose inhabitants spent 118 days besieged by Boer forces while waiting for General Buller s army Giles Foden tells his tale through a host of characters There s the Irish hotelier Leo Kiernan and his daughters, Bella and Jane the barber Antonio Torres, from Portuguese East Africa the various British war correspondents, including a young Winston Churchill the Indian stretcher bearers, among them Mohandas Gandhi a Zulu named Muhle Maseku, his wife, Nandi, and their son, Wellington and two young English soldiers, Tom and Perry Barnes, whose letters home in which straightforward description approaches the surreal were inspired by those of Foden s great grandfather Early on, Perry and his fellows capture one woman hiding in a farmhouse When we got to her, she was crouched in a shed with her arms round a goose Seeing us approach, she buried her head in its feathers and started crying As we surrounded her, she kept repeating something in Dutch An African scout who spoke the language said what she was saying was Leave me my man goose Do not take my man goose Do not hurt my man goose We had to take her in of course, but we let her keep the goose As she was a farmer, I felt sorry for her, but they have plenty of our fellows in Pretoria, so there Ladysmith is a busy book, and it s not always clear what s going on But that s Foden s point At heart it is a novel about the writing of history, set on the verge of modernity, where old ways of assessing the truth are being cruelly questioned So correspondent George Steevens still reads his Greek historians and Gibbons, while his messages are being sent and censored by the newfangled heliograph Sieges are out of date, Steevens realizes To the man of 1899 with five editions of the evening papers every day, a siege is a thousandfold a hardship We make it a grievance nowadays if we are a day behind the news news that concerns us not at all With such pressures to provide news, news, news, it s no surprise when the correspondents end up producing the Ladysmith Lyre, full of fake news And on the margins, there s the unnamed Biographer, eschewing words in favor of visual images with his Biograph, but soon finding that he too can t tell the whole story

In its considerable range and ambition Churchill and Gandhi s encounter prefiguring events of the 1940s, Bella s personal rebellion standing in for the advance of women, the place of Ireland in Britain s colonial plans, Wellington s experiences informing his work with the ANC Ladysmith sometimes falls short But in his battle scenes and evocation of the town s drawn out suffering, Foden is very good, producing some startling images the town s mockingbirds, for instance, take to imitating the whine and buzz of shells This is never anything less than a fascinating, ambitious novel, and to see a young author taking on the huge question of how to write history is inspiring indeed Alan Stewart

Title : Ladysmith
Author :  Giles Foden
Language : English
Isbn : 0375409203
Format : Hardcover
Pages : 304 pages

Rating: 4.9

Reviewer: 9331 Reviews