Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Mission Song by John Le Carre

Basic plot 

Bruno Salvador is a zebra. Born from an errant white missionary and a black tribe chieftain's daughter, his very existence is miraculous. Working in London as a world-class interpreter with a flair for the numerous African languages and married to a high-born, successful journalist, he has almost shed his stripes. An unexpected call for an assignment for the British government soon finds him re-considering his life and loyalties. Thrown into the world of espionage, mystery, adultery and clandestine operations, he soon finds out whether zebras have the stripes to save Africa.

What I liked about this book

This book and author came highly recommended. My Head of Department actually knocked on my door one day and lent it to me (it seems that my bookworm glow had not passed unnoticed by him). I had seen The Constant Gardener (did not have a chance to read the book), and knew that the author wrote about stuff that matters. He is a magnificent storyteller. The words are fluid and cast wonderful imagery of the African landscape, culture and people. He is able to depict the sense of wonder in each beautiful language even though the whole text is in English. He also manages to convey the skill, finesse and dexterity required of a truly world class interpreter, a job I once coveted when I was younger.

What I disliked about the book

The pace is somewhat slower than I would have liked. There is a lot of background information to digest, especially regarding the political temperature in Congo, politics not being a strong point for me. Another thing I found a bit tedious was the frequency that the main character's thoughts strayed to his lover, even when it was totally unnecessary to the plot. The pace however picked up halfway through the book and gained momentum towards the end. 

A quote I liked from the book

Never mistake, please, your mere translator for your top interpreter. An interpreter is a translator, true, but not the other way round.

Rating: 3.5/5


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