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On one level, this book is about life in Burundi's capital city during the tumultuous '60s. Made up of a series of vignettes or shorts, the author draws you into numerous fragments that become a whole picture of what it was like for her living in Bujumbura. I loved the descriptions of the Catholic school, of Burundi royalty, embassy life, the Chinese defector, and the first time she heard The Beatles on a '45. But this is not a light hearted YA romantic adventure. Semi-biographical, the author exposes the emotional world of a young girl suddenly transplanted into French-speaking central Africa. The stress of living overseas with emotionally distant parents, cut off from former friends and family is hard to read about, even when presented in a humorous fashion. After all, those were the days of snail-mail and telegrams, not teen-friendly cell phones and Skype. Who do you turn to for help in making sense of the changes going on in you and around you? Clearly, help could only come from within her own mind and that is where theauthor puts us. Into that mind, overwhelmed by circumstance and creating an often mystical reality for herself against the background of a changing political scene and beautiful African scenery.
Barbara Emrys has written a beautiful novel. This coming-of-age story is rich in descriptions of a colorful time and place and in capturing a shy, teenaged girl's awakening to womanhood. Her love of The Beatles and the thrilling expectancy of getting their latest recordings in far away Africa is a refreshing counterpoint to having to cope with her father's tedious foreign service lifestyle. This is a constantly intriguing book. Ms. Emrys' first novel reveals a writer with extraordinary literary skills and the ability to tell a unique, page-turner story.