The Fortunes of Africa – Book review

I’m an interval reader (if that’s even an expression?), by that I mean I can read nonstop for weeks, one book after the other, only to not pick up a book for several month thereafter. The book I’ve decided to review in my first book review is a book that took me many month to cover, and not only because it’s no less than 686 pages (excluding chapter notes) to get through, but because of its content. “The Fortunes of Africa” where the author Martin Meredith attempts to cover 5000 years of the history of the African continent is not a book to take lightly. I actually had to put this book down from time to time out of sheer exhaustion, it was at time overwhelming and I found myself getting very emotionally affected but what I was taking in. This book, or at least books like it, should be mandatory reading not only in schools but to anyone ever contemplating moving to and /or already living on the continent. It is obviously impossible to squeeze in 5000 years of rich and diverse cultures from such a vast continent in one single book, no matter how many pages. But the author has done a fine job in comprising a history book taking the reader from the mighty Pharaohs to Great Zimbabwe to the first Arab traders and eventually the advent of European explorers and consequently the beginning of colonial rule. At the very end of the book we catch up with the 21st century and it is with sadness that I realize what mighty potential Africa had that has gone to waste over the centuries. Not only was the African society not allowed to fully develop due to slave trade and colonial rule, but the newly independent states where handed over to a western schooled elite that saw no benefit in sharing their power and subsequent wealth with the masses. This book was a heavy read, but it has deepened my understanding of so many aspects of what Africa is today.  I think I need to read something lighter next, like a romantic novel with a happy ending or just a magazine, yes, a magazine about cooking and the latest interior designs….!



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