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Desertion

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Early one morning in 1899, in a small town along the coast from Mombasa, Hassanali sets out for the mosque. But that morning he never gets there, for out of the desert stumbles an Englishman who collapses at his feet. That man is Martin Pearce - writer, traveller and something of an Orientalist. He is taken to recuperate at the house of a colonial official, Frederick Turner. When he visits Hassanali to thank him for his rescue, he meets his sister Rehana and is immediately fascinated by her beautiful eyes and her air of tragedy. In this crumbling town on the edge of civilised life, with the empire on the brink of a new century, a passionate love affair begins that brings two cultures together and that will reverberate through three generations and across continents. It carries its consequences to Zanzibar in the early 1950s, a country struggling with its complicated legacy of slavery and foreign rule. Here another forbidden love affair begins as Zanzibar moves inexorably towards Independence - and revolution. Through the lives of his characters Abdulrazak Gurnah creates an unforgettable portrait of a continent in upheaval. Ambitious, moving and absorbing, it is a spellbinding novel from a writer at the height of his powers. Hide synopsis

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