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Exile by Jakob Ejersbo

Ejersbo, a lot like Steig Larson, never got to see this book published as he died of cancer in 2008. Exile is the first of The African Trilogy depicting his experiences of living in Africa , offering a shocking insight into life in Tanzania during the 1980s. It reveals the lives of young European expatriates who plummet into a life of hedonism, corruption and a deplorable work ethic which stem down from their money, power hungry parents. 

The narrator is fifteen year old Samantha, or as she likes to call herself “Sam the Man”. Her father in an unhinged, ex-SAS soldier who goes about on top secret assignments whilst her mother takes to the bottle. The only stability in Samantha’s life is her sister. Samantha attends Moshi’s international school in Tanzania which is more or less a huge playground in which teenagers are dumped by parents who do not wish to be actual parents. It is in this hotbed of drugs; sex, alcohol and apathy in which Samantha swims around and wishes not to leave when she reaches a certain age. Most of the students leave Moshi and return to Europe at eighteen without any qualms, but a large number of them haven’t integrated into their surroundings the way Samantha has. Having been raised in Africa and even knowing fluent Swahili, the thought of being sent home to England where it is cold, and you have to work to make a living, hangs around her neck like a death sentence.

Ejersbo’s writing is one that lacks emotion, it is flat, cynical and desolate at times which can make this a hard read at first, but strangely enough, just as the narrator claws her way under your skin, so does this flatness which belongs to this story. Exile lacks in character development but maybe this is because people don’t hang around long enough to absorb the culture and develop one, except Samantha that is. Emptiness brims to the very top with this novel and certainly enters the reader and therefore is not a read for those who are looking for something “cheery” but what it does offer is an insight into a very different world- how it functions and how it falls apart.

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