Mount Pleasant (Cameroon #1) by Patrice Nganang Translated by Amy Reid

1. First lines. 2. Book cover Farrar, Straus and Giroux 3. King Njoya in his palace, in Cameroon Reproduction of a water-colour by Ernst Vollbehr [Public Domain] Source: Wikimedia

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2016. Originally published in French in 2011 as Mont Plaisant. Genre: Historical fiction. Setting: Cameroon, 20th century.

  • THE STORY:
    • A student returns home to Cameroon and interviews an older woman called Sara who lived through the colonial times of the country. Sara tells of being taken from her home as a child to work as a slave for the sultan (King Njoya, who lived in the palace pictured on the cover of the book), and ultimately become one of his wives. The story weaves back and forth among the years of World War 1, its aftermath, and of the French, German and English colonies.
  • QUOTES:
    • “Back in his office, Ripert had signed a decree forbidding any sort of public assembly. Even the children knew better than to cry. Lizards no longer lifted their inquisitive heads to the sky. Dogs no longer barked, no. In the deadly silence that clothed the city, had you listened carefully, you would have heard only the throbbing of an undercurrent of rage.”
    • “One of the sultan’s favorite destinations was the Artists’ Alley. Njoya loved to watch the artists at work. He became someone altogether different in a workshop, giving the blacksmiths and ceramists advice, speaking as if he were one of them; and he was one of them.”
  • BOOK REVIEWS:
    • Kirkus Reviews: An elegantly drawn and engaging world of a sort unknown to most readers—but one they’ll be glad to have visited.
    • Historical Novel Society: “Patrice Nganang is a highly gifted writer who introduces the reader to Cameroon in Central Africa and allows us to decipher its historical, cultural and political evolution through the mouth of the doyenne, Sara. Superb historical fiction!”
  • MY THOUGHTS:
    • Recommended for its insight into colonialism in Africa, particularly Cameroon, and a little-known but fascinating slice of African history. The mood of the times and places are well-drawn. The structure of the novel is not at all straightforward, making it a challenge to keep track of when the events are taking places for who is involved.
  • HISTORICAL NOTE:
    • From the fourteenth century, Cameroon was ruled by a dynasty of kings. Originally a Portuguese, then a Dutch colony, it became a German colony from 1884. Cameroon was invaded by the British during World War I, and afterwards the League of Nations partitioned the country between the United Kingdom and France. Cameroon gained its independence in 1961. A small region in Cameroon, the Kingdom of Bamun at the time of King Njoya (1860 – 1933) is the setting for the story “Mount Pleasant“. He lived in his palace (pictured on the cover of the book) in the city of Foumban, but was exiled by the French in 1931 to the city of Yaounde, where he died in 1933.

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