Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Book Review: The Setting Sun by Bart Moore-Gilbert


Bart Moore-Gilbert's father died when he was a young boy and his memories are of a brave and honourable man who influenced his son both in life and in death  - the loss not only of his father but also his home and everything he knew meant he spent years feeling an exile in England and eventually gave up his childhood ambition to be a game ranger like his dad to become a professor of Postcolonial Studies at London University. When he receives a letter from a colleague asking for information about his father's time in the Indian police as a young man he is at once intrigued. He realises how little he knows about that time, especially after discovering his father may have written a secret memorandum about the Parallel Government (an armed underground movement formed after Gandhi's imprisonment in 1942). Moore-Gilbert decides to visit the country himself to find out more, particularly when his historian colleague's emails start to become more erratic and vague.
However, shortly after arriving in India he is shattered to learn his father may have been involved in the abuse of civilians. What follows is a captivating and compelling look at India, both the country as it is today and how it was in the last years of British rule. His journey is both physical and emotional as he travels across India gradually learning more about his father and the dying days of the British Empire. It's also a memoir about the author's childhood in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and his relationship with his father as he is compelled to re-examine his memories of that time.
I really enjoyed The Setting Sun, Bart Moore-Gilbert writes movingly and honestly about his relationship with his father and his feelings as he realises he was a more flawed man than the hero of his memories. Both India and the Africa of his childhood are evocatively described and it's also rich and thoughtful look at the politics of the past and their effect on the present. Sometimes the most interesting, thought-provoking stories are those that are from real life and The Setting Sun is one such book; even if you don't usually read much nonfiction I thoroughly recommend it.
Thanks to the author and publishers for my free copy from NetGalley in return for my honest review.

The Setting Sun is published by Verso Books.

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