Now for something completely different.
Over Christmas and New Year I read a book called A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: a novel written by Australian author Nicholas Drayson.
A a first glance at the front cover you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just another field guide, albeit to a part of the world with a wonderfully rich and diverse bird life. Look again. The two innocent words a novel at the end of the title bring a whole new perspective to the book.
The novel is a story of intrigue, excitement, adventure, mystery, crime and with a light touch of romance. Actually, the whole premise has romance as its basis. Not soppy romance, mind you, but the driving force of the main character and his protagonist is their love for another bird watcher.
Mr. Malik is quiet, reserved and polite in the extreme. He is not the one to ruffle any feathers, ornithological or human. But his heart holds a secret passion; he is deeply in love with Rose Mbikwa, leader of the Tuesday-morning bird walk of the East African Ornithological Society.
Mr. Malik secretly plans to ask Rose to the annual Hunt Ball. Harry Khan, a ghost from Mr. Malik’s past sweeps back into his life, and he too has Rose in his plans. When Mr. Malik unwisely blurts out his feelings at their club, a wager is arranged. Whoever sees the most birds in a week will be the one to ask Rose to the ball.
The chase is on, but not without the inevitable hindrances, intrigue, mystery and complications over interpretations of The Rules. Many birds are seen and woven seamlessly into the story which rollicks along to a satisfying conclusion.
Drayson, N., 2008, A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: a novel. London, Penguin