Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews and promotes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and is also author of the Toby's Tails series of children's books.
A Fascinating insight into the African culture in Paris.
This interesting book follows the life of Sainy Kanteh, who the readers met in the author’s previous book ‘Peculiar.’ He is the protagonist in both stories, and through him, and his wife Fatou, we are able to gain very thought-provoking and enlightening insights into how life is in Europe, and Paris in particular for African immigrants.
Before going into more depth, I must stress that it is not necessary to have read ‘Peculiar’ to enjoy reading this book. For those who have not, it tells of Sainy’s arrival in Paris as a young man from his native Gambia. Through his experiences and observations the readers discover his reactions to this new city he is to call his home, and gain insight into the African community there, their customs, and traditions which they continue away from their homeland. In this book he also meets and falls madly in love with Fatou, a divorcee with a young son.
Now this their story continues with Fatou adoring her man, doing everything she can to please him. They have a happy and fulfilled life, and in return he tries to provide for his family, and to do so he gains employment in a restaurant.
The strong bonds of the African community shines through in this book, where we learn about the traditions which are still carried out in Europe as they were in Africa, and their importance. However, it is also clear that life in France with its Child Benefit and other social help changes the thoughts of the African women. These changes in attitudes do affect both sexes, and can and do lead to unrest both in families and amongst the people, the cultures clash sometimes and we see the reasons clearly portrayed within these pages.
As in relationships throughout the world, temptations rise and people are human, and this is the case when Sainy falls for Stephanie a white woman who is deeply attracted to him. As the relationship develops, Sainy like many men before him change, and Fatou as his wife notices. However Fatou has also to deal with comments from the community, other women, and an accident suffered by her son which leads to trouble in the family.
As an English woman moving to France the changes in culture have been different and take adjustment, however I cannot pretend to understand how it must be for someone whose cultures differ so much in their homeland.
The author was himself born in the Gambia, and as a young man migrated to Paris, where he earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature, and a Ph.D. in English Studies (Society and Culture). He also taught Legal English (Law and Politics – UK/USA) and Economic English, for two years before returning to Africa and working as a Senior Research and Programme Officer at the African Union office (the African Academy of Languages) in Bamako, Mali, from November 2009 to July 2015, and as Acting Executive Secretary from August 2015 to December 2018, and from then to now as Executive Secretary of the same institution.
This book is openly and skilfully written, and gives the readers an unbiased opportunity to understand the life of Gambian immigrants in Paris and Europe. Highly recommended.