A tale of slavery's hypocrisy in a world on the cusp of total and brutal change

The hotly anticipated second novel by Petina Gappah, 'Out of Darkness, Shining Light', follows the epic journey of Dr Livingstone's corpse - and the people who carried it - through 19th-century Africa

01 October 2019 - 11:16

Out of Darkness, Shining Light is the story of the body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, the explorer David Livingstone - and the 69 men and women who carried his remains for 1,500 miles so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own country.

The wise men of his age say Livingstone blazed into the darkness of their native land leaving a track of light behind where white men who followed him could tread in perfect safety.

But in Petina Gappah's radical novel, it is those in the shadows of history - those who saved a white man's bones; his dark companions; his faithful retinue on an epic funeral march - whose voices are resurrected with searing intensity.

This final, fateful journey across the African interior is lead by Halima, Livingstone's sharp-tongued cook, and three of his most devoted servants: Jacob, Chuma and Susi.

Their tale of how his corpse was borne out of 19-century Africa - carrying the maps that sowed the seeds of the continent's brutal colonisation - has the power of myth.

It is not only symbolic of slavery's hypocrisy, but a portrait of a world trembling on the cusp of total change - and a celebration of human bravery, loyalty and love.

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. Her debut story collection, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Award in 2009. Her first novel, The Book of Memory, was published in 2015, and was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction


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