genre: adult fiction
Have you seen the movie, the one with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart? I remember watching it with my mom several times when I was younger, so when I saw a fabulous old version at a used book sale, I grabbed it.
Rose is the adult sister of a Christian missionary. She's been in Africa for years, working alongside her brother as his housekeeper and companion. Allnut is a man-of-all-work, engineer and "captain" of the tiny boat The African Queen. When the German army has conscripted all their native converts and Rose's brother dies, she's left alone until Allnut shows up. Rose, in her patriotic zeal, comes up with the idea to create a "torpedo" out of some of the supplies left on the Africa Queen.
And she wants to travel down the Ulanga river so they can torpedo a giant German warship that patrols a huge lake and be heroes for Britain.
Crazy, no? But somehow, the story WORKS. These two completely incompatible characters somehow mesh into this amazing team. We travel down the river with them - with its rapids and bugs, passing by towns full of German soldiers and through nasty swamps. Of course there is love (steamy for the time, I'd imagine) and it's so lovely to watch Rose and Allnut grow and change. I enjoyed the writing - some parts are fast moving and intense, others are slow and rambling, kind of like the river they are trying to navigate. I liked that even though Africa and the river were often Rose's enemy, sometimes, you could see how Africa was helping Rose - letting her become a strong and independent woman, helping her to find a passion for something.
I liked mostly that it's such a different kind of story in a unique place. That it's a World War I story in a part of the world you don't often read about made it interesting too. It's not particularly gripping (I couldn't really read it once I fell in bed) but I'm really glad I read it. I'm excited to go watch the movie again.
book 1 of 8 of the Orbis Terrarum Challenge
book 1 of 5 for the Classics Challenge 2010