“An explosion of a novel, a fictional tornado
whirling through the contemporary chaos. This book has more lives than a cat—all of them electrifying, and none of them exemplary.”
—Shirley Hazzard, author of
THE GREAT FIRE
“In an engrossing picaresque novel from King, a young woman’s adventures and loves unfold across a dozen years and three continents…An engaging and subtle tale that unites far-flung worlds in the person of a complex, intriguing heroine.”
—KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED)
“The beautiful, graceful interweaving
of Marcella’s present-time story with all the layers of her past
is a marvel. I read it in a state of complete happiness.”
—Andrea Barrett, author of
SERVANTS OF THE MAP and SHIP FEVER
“WHY isn’t that Iraqi doctor practicing medicine? Why is he running a popular cafe in London’s Bayswater district? He must be a political refugee, like most of the characters in this timely, entertaining novel about postcolonial migrants trying to survive in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain.
The slight time warp adds extra ironies. In mid-1980’s London, privatization is still a shocking new tactic. Applied to public housing, it brings windfalls for a few and homelessness for many. AIDS has struck but not yet been identified. The British and the Americans connive with Pakistan’s attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, the deal financed by a shady international banking network and brokered by a steely Pakistani mercenary whom the Americans invite to train the Nicaraguan contras. He turns them down: he has bigger fish to fry.
These alarming events are filtered through the mind of the title character in Roger King’s fourth novel, ”A Girl From Zanzibar” — a naïve, ambitious and beautiful young illegal immigrant. Marcella D’Souza is a wonderful invention, a latter-day Candide, an East African on a picaresque voyage of discovery. Her creator specializes in close-up, intimate views of the global economy: the meetings in overheated rooms where the haves decide the fates of the have-nots. He’s been in those rooms. As an agricultural economist, he worked for United Nations agencies in Asia and Africa. These days, he lives and teaches in western Massachusetts….
There is no safe haven, this brilliantly prescient novel suggests, and nothing to hold onto. For better or worse, we are all migrants now.”
—SUZANNE RUTA in THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Roger King’s excellent novel, “A Girl From Zanzibar” alternates between Marcella’s progress through the academic year in Vermont and her journey from Zanzibar across the globe, until her past and present unexpectedly converge. The journey provides considerable pleasure for the reader…. Marcella wonders, ‘If the whole world is in motion, then the displaced are those that stay at home.’ Observations such as this make Marcella the novel’s chief pleasure. Nearly every page crackles with some fresh, sharp and true observation. To use a word seldom applied to fiction, “A Girl From Zanzibar” is a delight.”
“A steady beat of danger pursues the adventurous, money-hungry heroine of Roger King’s intriguing new novel…King is no slouch at weaving global politics into his narrative, from shifty banking to arms dealing, but at heart Marcella’s quest is a traditional but profound one. The pathos of this well-told, frequently surprising story is how hard it is for this beautiful, intelligent ‘woman from everywhere, belonging nowhere’ to fulfill such fundamental need.”
“Roger King’s nuanced characterizations of people and places turn the intrigue into art.”
“A humane thriller subtle enough to avoid all sentimentality, while resting on a core of conscience.”
—POLLY SHULMAN in NEWSDAY
A Girl From Zanzibar Was Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award for Best Novel of 2002