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Ancestor Stones
Aminatta Forna
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Ancestor Stones

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  437 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The author of the rapturously acclaimed memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water seamlessly turns her hand to fiction and delivers a novel that is a lush and beautiful portrait of several generations of African women. In Ancestor Stones, a young woman from West Africa, who has lived in England for many years, returns after years of civil war. The family's coffee plantatio
Published (first published 2006)
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I discovered Aminatta Forna when I read her memoir of her childhood in Sierra Leone as the daughter of a Temne doctor and a Scottish mother as well as the search for what happened to her father, who went into politics but refused to be corrupted and who subsequently disappeared. After the civil war which nearly destroyed the country, Forna went back to Sierra Leone to visit her family and research her father’s fate. It was getting to know the women in her father’s family that inspired her to wri ...more
Inge Vermeire
Een heerlijk boek. Het boek vertelt de geschiedenis van Sierra Leone aan de hand van de levensverhalen van vier Afrikaanse vrouwen - zalig om zo ondergedompeld te worden in Afrika. Ik vond het boek ook prachtig geschreven - vol prachtige beelden. Aminatta Forna is een nieuwe ontdekking - ik kijk ernaar uit om ander werk van haar te lezen.
I loved this book’s setup with its many narrators. I was surprised I hadn't heard of this novel before but am happy I randomly picked it up at the library. I really enjoyed it. I read this shortly after I read Edwidge Danticat's The Dew Breaker and I thought the two complemented each other well (in both the format (interwoven short stories) and theme (both books focus on women attempting to reconcile their familial past) and I would think that most people who like one would also like the other. ...more
April Hochstrasser
I liked the stories of these 5 sisters from Africa. The fact that they all had the same father, but not the same mother was interesting. They all came from the same era, the same village, but their stories were very different. However, I didn't like how the book was constructed, with one sister's story in one year, then another sister's story about the same year. Then skipping ahead in years but going back to the first sister, etc. I got confused about whose story I was reading, what was the fir ...more
Amy Baxter
Good book if you are interested in West Africa. Found some of the character plots hard to follow, mainly because of the rotation of characters between chapters, the different time periods, and as some characters had similarities between their life stories.
Any story that involves the story line of a significant percentage of a man's eleven wives and their offspring will take some adjustment. I had to flip back to the family tree to keep track of whose who. But once I found the rhythm and began to get a feel for who goes where with whom, the story began to pull me in. By the end, I was in deep.
Beautifully written novel which explores several generations of Sierra Leonean women. INcludes one of the most undernarrated themes around--women's political agency. Some stirring scenes in the book will stay with me for a long time--including one which the writer says is modeled after a true experience of her mother.
Dec 28, 2011 Judy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Picked it up at the Penn Bookstore
Shelves: stopped-reading
I have a feeling that my reaction to this book is very personal, so don't take this as a warning not to read it. It's set in Sierra Leone, which reminds me very much of Nigeria (where I spent four years as a kid). I found it extremely depressing, and have put it away, at least for now.
Great premise but disorganized structure that makes all the women's narratives run together. It's hard to identify with anyone, let alone keep all the names and dates straight.
"For I know what it is to forget who you are. To feel the pieces falling away. To look for yourself and see only the stares of strangers. To search for yourself in circles until you're exhausted. And I wonder if my story means something to you. If perhaps what happened to me, little by little, isn't the same thing you felt happening to you. The very thing that brought you back home." Utterly graceful writing, delicate prose interwoven with echoes of happiness and love, sadness and war, gain and ...more
Esta obra é formada pelos percursos de vida, contados na primeira pessoa, de quatro mulheres da Serra Leoa. Abie é uma jovem natural deste país, cujo pai viajou para a Europa, o que fez com que ela recebesse uma educação de carácter ocidental. Embora visitasse esporadicamente a sua terra natal, acaba por adiar constantemente uma nova visita, devido á instabilidade política vivida no país, até que recebe uma carta de um dos seus primos informando-a de que herdou uma plantação de café do seu avô, ...more
I enjoyed this book, the writing style has a very lyrical quality. As you read through the various women's stories, you get a strong sense of their lives and their culture (where they find beauty and where they find difficulty). The book covers a long period of time (1920s-2003), meaning pre-colonial Sierra Leone through independence, then the civil war and post-civil war. I appreciate the fact that the book addresses these issues through the characters' stories, rather than as political or hist ...more
This story is set across almost 100 years of Sierra Leone's recent history, from colonial plantation days, through the initial hope of independence which was then dashed by a sucession of corrupt leaders, brutal oppression, mass killings and war. These events however, for the most part just form the backdrop to the recounting of the life stories of four sisters whose father had eleven polygamous wives and as a consequence the sisters also had a vast array of other brothers and sisters plus a myr ...more
Ancestor Stones is a sensually and beautifully written character-driven story about five women from two generations whose lives have remained tied to West Africa, even though three of them have traveled far from home. Aminatta Forna does an excellent job of giving individual voices to each of these women.

Abie returns from England to West Africa with her young family to the coffee estate begun by her grandfather, a polygamist Muslim, who had 11 wives and more than 36 children. She is greeted by
Reading Aminatta Forna is like reading a bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk, delicious. (Other chocolate bars are available). Or if society calls me from afar and demands a more manly metaphor, it’s like reading a cold pint on a hot day. You enjoy and saviour every mouthful, not wanting it to end and after there’s a warm happy appreciation of what you’ve just finished.

The shadows are solid, sharp, small. A dog lifts it’s head. A nose swings our way like a weathervane, marks our progress for a while and
This novel is about the stories of sisters. Although these stories are supposed to be tied to Abie, a woman who lives in England and is called back to West Africa to inherit a plantation, it felt as if, particularly the first half of the book, the stories were individual and unrelated. I wasn't making the connections between the stories until the last fourth of the novel. The connections are the stories of four aunts growing up in West Africa, living in villages before, during, and after the reb ...more
Very gripping. It is very much in the style of Amy Tan's 'The Joy Luck Club' - a group of related women give first person accounts of their lives, focusing very much on their personal relationships, especially with other women, with a touch of magic realism in the stories. These sisters are living through turbulent times in Sierra Leone, and the lessons they learn and the strength they find as individuals do not guarantee a happy life in a war torn country - a harsh truth that makes the book sta ...more
Maybe it was the heatwave or ...... but I found this overlong, the central thread of the story was forgotten until the last 3 pages and the print a bother. Having said that the stories, the life experience, the attitude of the central 4 women was refreshing and vibrant. A whole new world was illuminated and I learnt so much. It is an early work of AF apparently, so I will keep my eyes open for more.
Gorgeous writing style. Incredible rendering of sensory experiences accomplished through the written word. A gift for readers.
Explores the lives of women in West Africa amidst political unrest and ultimately civil war. Especially interesting if you've read Long Way Gone. Seeing the Rebel army through the eyes of these women and also knowing the child soldiers' story.
Heartbreaking. Important. Deep. Heavy.
Ultimately, not a memorable book. I enjoyed the idea behind the plot, but the execution left much to be desired. As a previous reviewer has stated, the machinations of the government are essentially glossed over, which is naturally frustrating.
Bobbie Darbyshire
If you loved 'The Joy Luck Club' by Amy Tan and 'Wild Swans' by Jung Chang, you'll love 'Ancestor Stones' by Aminatta Forna. Each of these shows a country's evolution by means a succession of stories told by women of three generations: grandmothers, mothers and daughters. The form cannot be faulted as linked short stories. As a novel, however, it never quite wows me. The rotation of voices means I lose track of who is whose daughter/granddaughter, what was this woman's mother's story. I can look ...more
Once I got used to the writing style, I enjoyed reading the different stories of the four sisters from West Africa. I like learning about different lifestyles and perspectives. Connecting with characters whose lives differ wildly from mine helps me remember that my personal life experience is not the only valid one.

I have to agree with another reviewer, however, that the voices of the five characters (Abie, Ansana, Hawa, Mariama & Serah) didn't seem to differ from each other very much. Of c
Karen S
I really enjoyed the 4 storytellers in this book. Thank goodness there was a pedigree chart at the front of the book because I had to repeatedly (like every time I picked up the book) be reminded which narrator came from which wife of this African polygamous family. The book would have captured my interest more had I been able to read longer chunks at a sitting. When it takes up to 3 months to finish a book, either I've chosen the wrong book or have too much on my plate! I do have a greater appr ...more
Memoirist Forna has written a novel in which the theme of tracing the patterns of the past is developed and embroidered in the stories of four remarkable women: half-sisters Asana, Mary, Hawa and Serah Kholifa, born to different wives of Gibril Umaru Kholifa, a rich African plantation owner. Their staggered stories are followed for three quarters of a century, creating in the process a uniquely inflected and personal history of Sierra Leone. Nominally Muslim, the family nevertheless maintains ma ...more
Nakib Hoq
I have never known much about African literature, culture and the way average Africans lead their lives. For me therefore the book was an amazing look out onto the immensely vibrant culture of the world's most ancient and simple continent. And it all comes alive with Aminatta Forna's brilliant knack for the past, and how destiny is intertwined with ideals, the past and everything unknown. Overall, a must read for every one who liked books like The God of Small Things and The Inheritance of Loss
This would be an excellent book to use for a women's book discussion group. Set in Sierra Leone, it follows the lives of four sisters, born of different wives (co-wives) of a coffee plantation owner. Each of the women takes a very different path as they navigate the increasingly turbulent social and political landscape of their native county. Ironically, in the end they all end up back in their small village, living in the family compound as they tell their European born niece the stories of the ...more
This is really a remarkable book. It is written from the point of view of 4 African sisters from Sierra Leone. It takes you through the twentieth century and into the twentyfirst and describes life from their point of view. I have never read anything like it, with its descriptions of their village and their customs, as well as the more sinister parts about the violence, corruption and horrors of the civil war there.
Well written book, I loved the way she wove the stories of the different women in and out, even if I sometimes forgot whose story I was reading. Made me want to run to Awing and interview the elderly aunties who still remained. I am also heartened that it was the story of the women, the mens' stories emerged but they were secondary. If that.
Monique banner
This is the best book I have read in a long time. I absolutely loved it.
A warmth envelops this parcel of gems that is each story. As long and deep as it is thought provoking, a novel that can move you to laughter and tears in the same chapter. I entered this garden of enlightenment a stranger and left with a new family. Lovely in every way!
A well-written book that tells the story of multiple generations of women in Sierra Leone, in their own words and each with their own story and perspective. M only quibble was that the different voices didn't sound different enough and it kind of lulled me after awhile rather than evoked powerfully their total story - which is a powerful one.
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Great African Reads: September | "Ancestor Stones" 35 55 Oct 26, 2012 04:10AM  
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Born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom and now divides her time between London and Sierra Leone
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