Friday, July 30, 2010

The Clouds Beneath the Sun by Mackenzie Ford

An archeologist excavation in Kenya filled with brilliant paleontologists is the setting of the book…the characters' work, cultural differences, and inter-personal relationships encompasses the main plot. In the first few pages the main character, Natalie Nelson, is on her way from Cambridge University to the camp, and she comes across a herd of elephants actually carrying out a mourning ritual...her first glimpse of the mesmerizing sights and sounds of Africa. The descriptions of the wildlife in Africa and the land itself was vividly and beautifully described by Mackenzie Ford.

When Natalie does arrive at the camp site, she is happy to see everyone has his/her own tent with private bath facilities. This is especially comforting the following evening since she didn't get a warm welcome at dinner as a result of her being the novice paleontologist and making a comment that was viewed as criticism of one of the veteran archeologists.

Just as things got better with that situation, and as the excavating continued, two veteran paleontologists, Richard and Russell, do something unthinkable, and a murder occurs. The sole witness happens to be Natalie. Natalie tries to relax and forget about the trial each night with a drink and a cigarette while listening to the African animals that circle the camp. The trial gets pretty complicated and worrisome for Natalie....a plea made to the Maasai chief concerning the trial is denied....the legal and cultural issues are of the utmost concern.

The book was a little slow, but does become a lot better in terms of "action" as you turn the pages to the final chapters....the focus of the archaeological dig, the murder trial, Natalie's turmoil dealing with it, the power of money, societal issues within Africa, relationship issues among a group of people working and living together, personal secrets, and family issues that included sibling rivalry, betrayal, and deceit keep your interest.

It wasn't a riveting novel, but it was intense at times, and it did bring you culturally into another very interesting society. The characters were well developed, and you could feel their pain, fear, triumphs, comradery, and all emotions that may have been felt from living in the middle of a beautiful, exotic African landscape. Being a passionate, knowledgeable paleontologist would have been even more helpful for enjoying the book.

My rating is a 4/5 because the "dig" was very interesting and the cultural aspect made you think how we are all the same, but also different. Even though the ending depicted the beautiful symbolism of the Maasai people, it will haunt you and make you realize what cunning, cruel, jealous, self-motivated creatures we humans can be.

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