Ann Harries Manly Pursuits

ISBN 13: 9781582340739

Manly Pursuits

3.38 avg rating
( 37 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781582340739: Manly Pursuits

A rich and evocative novel about fidelity and betrayal, exploitation and colonialism.

Cape Town, 1899. Cecil Rhodes, the great imperialist and diamond tycoon, believes that he has only months to live, and that the only thing that can save him is the sound of English birdsong in the South African countryside surrounding his Cape residence.

"The Colossus," as Rhodes is known throughout South Africa, recruits Francis Wills, an Oxford don and the world's leading expert in birdsong, to transport two hundred British songbirds-blackbirds, nightingales, chaffinches, robins and starlings-by sea from Southampton to the Cape Province. But the birds, confused by the change of season and hemisphere, refuse to sing. This is but the first obstacle for Wills, who finds himself irresistibly drawn to intrigue-romantic, political, and ornithological-in a country on the brink of war.

Ann Harries' splendid first novel is cast with a host of sharply drawn real-life characters, among them Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll who are friends of Wills' in England, and Rudyard and Mrs. Kipling, intimates of Rhodes in his imperialist oasis.

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About the Author:

Ann Harries was born and educated in Cape Town, where she taught for several years and was involved in the anti-apartheid movement. She now lives in the Cotswolds, England, where she teaches music to visually impaired children.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Harriess first novel is a triumph: a captivating, intelligent work taking the reader to the South Africa of Cecil Rhodes, in 1899, a region on the brink of war. In an elegant merging of idea and character, Harries tells the story of the dying imperialist Rhodes (The Colossus), who believes his life will be saved if he can hear again the birds of his native England. With Rhodes begin the themes of the tragedies of power and the quest for control. He hires the Oxford ornithologist Frederick Wills, a private, anxious don, to escort a shipload of songbirds to the Great Granary, Rhodess manorial residences. Guests there include Rudyard and Mrs. Kipling and Leander Jameson, the leader of the infamous Jameson Raid that precipitated the Boer War; and Wills embarks on his utopian voyage in the aftermath of the trial and imprisonment of his friend Oscar Wilde, with whom he had studied at Oxford under aesthetician John Ruskin. Having abandoned Wilde to his imprisonment, Wills approaches the Great Granary with a troubled, betrayers soul. But great appetites abound as he arrives: Rhodess ambition to subjugate Africa, Jamesons hope of fulfilling his loyalty to Rhodes, the Kiplings fascination with young innocenceas well as the English power to civilize. In deftly written interjections, Wills recalls Ruskins obsessions with natural beauty and Wildes exhilarating flirtations with sexual and moral taboos. This concentration of aspirations unsettles him, and his own dream of innocent beauty uncorrupted by the human yearning for possession blossoms in his friendship with a South African girl, who enchantingly (and dangerously) flits in and out of view. Harriess ambition is broad, but her superb control of Willss fussy voicethe narrative prism used to view these historical figuresdiminishes their fame while enhancing the intimacy with which Wills and the reader comprehends them. Far from a costume history, this is a genuinely provocative debut novel about a place and time whose tragedy, folly, and several conflicted hearts are instantly recognizable. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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