I had my first review published last week on the ABC blog. Just because I'm allowed to, I'm reposting it here:
Welcome to the dark side of human nature. Jakob Ejersbo’s Exile journeys through a few years with teenager Samantha. Born of British parents, she has spent most of her life in Tanzania. For Samantha and her fellow boarding school peers, life is made bearable through vices like cigarettes, cokes, beer, and one-sided sexual encounters. If the term “international school” conjures up notions of multicultural harmony, Ejersbo smashes this illusion. His reality is of students living together separately, with little respect for other’s values, and a deep disdain for the native African population.
Exile is a study of intrigue, violence, drugs, and African politics. All of these themes are revealed through Samantha’s schizophrenic sexuality. We watch her swing from confidence to shame and from seductress to victim. Despite the fact that the author is male, he provides deep insight into the dance teenaged girls perform between owning their sexuality and being exploited. Samantha’s journey brings this to the fore as we watch her walk a pivotal line between life and death with her often spontaneous, always outrageous behavior.
The book is littered with authentic details. Through Samantha’s expert example, readers learn how lighting a fire scares rapid dogs away, how drinking gin and tonic deters mosquitos, and how to hitchhike – African style.
If you like books that stick with you – even if it’s an icky feeling – Exile is a must read. This is one of those novels that will spin in your mind days after finishing it. This intensifies when you learn that the Danish author died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 40, and Exile - the first of a trilogy just now available in English – is his legacy.