Written in 1987 and recently discovered by Keating's widow. Endeavour Press edition published in the UK on the 1st of June 2017.
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How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thomasina le Mesurier writes in her journal of finding a miraculous plant which has the potential to save thousands of lives with its medicinal properties. A plant which could have saved her beloved mentor and friend, Doctor Diver, who fell ill with the Typhoid Fever. She insists on venturing deep into the jungle to source the healing plant and take it back to England. Although told she is being foolhardy, Thomasina ventures off, following Doctor Diver’s notes… But is she chasing after a delusion? The forest is rumoured to hold unmentionable terrors and unfathomable enigmas, but regardless, Thomasina embarks on her journey into the heart of Africa, accompanied only by three native bearers. Can she survive the dangers of the dark? And what will her journey bring?
In the present day a young couple, David Teigh and Theresa Olivia Mountjoy, stumble upon an article expounding the writings of Thomasina. They soon set off on their journey, following in Thomasina’s footsteps, to discover the remaining notebooks preserved in the depths of Africa, all the while recording a documentary film of their treacherous journey. Will the adventurers’ respective searches come to a satisfying, or a more macabre, end? One thing is certain, no traveller who undertakes this expedition can emerge unchanged.
A homage to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, A Kind of Light will take you on a perilous journey through Africa’s forests.
I enjoyed the historical storyline in A Kind Of Light. Thomasina is an interesting character and I appreciated Keating's detailed and evocative descriptions of the Congolese Forest in the nineteenth century. I found it easy to envisage the incredible land Thomasina traversed and the people she met. Unfortunately her journey only makes up half of this short novel and the present-day (at the time the book was written) narrative didn't work well for me. It does have a few good characters, but these are in supporting roles and not the two leads. Theresa, known as Tom, and her colleague-partner David spend most of their time talking in odd swathes of dialogue that I didn't find at all convincing. Their journey in Thomasina's footsteps was perpetually overshadowed by lengthy conversations about whether or not they should get married. Overall, A Kind Of Light passed an afternoon and there were enough engaging elements to the book to keep me reading. However, in comparison to Heart Of Darkness, this book doesn't come anywhere close to the classic's power and atmosphere.
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Books by H R F Keating / Historical fiction / Books from England