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A Good Man in Africa

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,637 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
In the small African republic of Kinjanja, British diplomat Morgan Leafy bumbles heavily through his job. His love of women, his fondness for drink, and his loathing for the country prove formidable obstacles on his road to any kind of success. But when he becomes an operative in Operation Kingpin and is charged with monitoring the front runner in Kinjanja’s national elect ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 14th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 07, 2009 Ellen rated it did not like it
This was William Boyd's award winning first novel so I thought I would give it a try after having LOVED Restless. This is dated and terrible, not at all funny. Don't waste your time. I kept hoping it would get better and it didn't. If I had known I wouldn't have wasted my time.
Ian Simpson
Mar 28, 2012 Ian Simpson rated it it was amazing
Morgan Leafy is a great tragi-comic character. This is a good story with a lot of humour.
Jan 03, 2009 Brooke rated it really liked it
I found this book absolutely hilarious. I was literally in hysterics for an entire 20 page chapter - my husband was looking at me in awe as I have not laughed that long or hard in ages, and as he says, "I am a hard audience." That being said, it's not a riot throughout, but Boyd develops the characters so well that he can pull this off artfully. Having lived in Africa and England, I really appreciated Boyd's characters in all their Africanness and their Britishness. Morgan Leafy is an aspiring d ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Seana rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and was quite surprised to see so many one star reviews. I think fans of Evelyn Waugh and of Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim will like it. It helps if you don't mind the protagonist being a reprehensible character.
May 01, 2012 Al rated it it was ok
The author's first novel. In this case, as is often true with first novels, the early Boyd gets the worm. This book is an over the top, scathing indictment of the English colonial presence in Africa. The protagonist, Morgan Leafy, is a minor colonial official in a fictional west African country. Attack fiction is fine, but the Leafy of the early pages is such a total waste (moral, human, intellectual, sexual, you name it) that I almost quit reading. Sure, his situations are ridiculous (not real ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, africa
Overweight, beleaguered Morgan Leafy, a minor official in the fictional African country of Kinjaja, muddles his way through a series of misadventures. He faces scandal, blackmail, and venereal disease, as well as a righteous Scottish doctor, whom he must attempt to bribe. A very funny novel, with solid, human characters and wonderfully bizarre situations that are nevertheless more believable than, say, Tom Sharpe’s. The plot unfolds compellingly, in three parts, with the middle part a flashback, ...more

Morgan Leafy is a civil servant in the early 1970s Foreign Service posted to the small (mythical) country of Kinjanja in Africa. He simultaneously has inferiority and superiority issues -- he walks around with a huge chip on his shoulder but feels innately more important than any of the Africans. While this dicotomy is exaggerated in this satire, I suspect that it is not uncommon in people with Foreign Service postings in out-of-the-way places in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. However, Boyd's sa
The blurb on the back cover made this sound like a fun book to read. After reading the first 7 pages I was bored with the writing style - the author keeps mentioning things that have happened to the protagonist, but then doesn't fully expand on them. Unfortunately, we already know these titbits of information as they are on the back cover - they need to be expanded!! Flicking through the rest of the book I realised I hadn't seemed to miss much by heading to the end - all in all, a dissappointmen ...more
Nov 25, 2011 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who's ever felt trapped in a small elevator with a horrible boss
Anyone with a name like Morgan Leafy is bound to have troubles. His career has wandered onto a jungle path and got lost. He's freckled, balding, going to fat. Within the Foreign Office, he's a second-stringer if ever there was one: not Oxbridge, not connected to the right people (or any people, for that matter) and stuck in a provincial backwater in west Africa as second-in-command to an about-to-retire has-been diplomat who spent his entire career in the Orient until, presumably because of his ...more
Susan Wilson
Dec 22, 2013 Susan Wilson rated it did not like it
This is my third William Boyd. I enjoyed Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms and so though it best I read his first novel that had won such international acclaim when published in 1981. I was disspointed. Maybe some of the scandal of taking a black lover (and vice versa) or contracting a STD or being considered “uptight” sexually may have still titillated in some conservative circles in 1981 but I didn’t find it that funny or even interesting. I struggled to get started, was bored with the teena ...more
May 07, 2012 Felisberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Um livro que vale bem a pena!

Inicialmente estava receoso sobre este livro, talvez por não conhecer o autor que tão bem conceituado é.
Mas depois de o ler é realmente uma livro que aconselho a ler por entretenimento. Tem uma história bem construída, uma boa escrita também, e elementos de diversão fantásticos
Por vezes o melhor e o ideal não é ser-se "um homem melhor – ou mais sábio" mas simplesmente ter-se a dignidade, a coragem e o respeito por si mesmo e pelos outros quando o merecem.
O autor está
Mar 25, 2014 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I love William Boyd's versatility. The humor in the book is a side-splitting at some of his action novels are nail-biting. Poor Morgan Leafy, he has a lot on his plate as we are introduced to him, and the novel does a great job of ratcheting up that tension in the first section and then retracing the steps--almost entirely missteps--that led him to all his predicaments. It is that subtle British humor, though, that provides the glue to stick all these scenes together and keeps us turning on ...more
Boy this has been a struggle. It's dated, not particularly funny, too much gratuitous sex, there are very few characters I actually liked - especially the main character, who I ended up rooting for something bad to happen to - and the one decent person in the whole thing gets gratuitously killed. It doesn't even have a satisfying ending. I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing it if it hadn't been for a Book Club.
Oct 13, 2016 Tathe1939 rated it it was amazing
Martina, has no time and his daughter, Jenny, no interest, Thomas, an mellifluous man in the mid-forties, has resolved to adopt a relaxing skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps. Items drive more complicated than normal this year if they are became a member of by Sarah, his manager's daughter. Watch free film.
Ian Brydon
Sep 03, 2015 Ian Brydon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a brilliant novel! I first read it in the early 1980s, perhaps not long after it was first published, and thought it was marvellous. Thirty years later it still seems just as entertaining, with a dazzling mix of humour and tragedy, with a healthy dose of parody of the overwhelming self-satisfaction and unassailable rectitude of European diplomats in post-colonial West Africa.

Morgan Leafy, the central figure, is a brilliant creation. Dissolute, lazy and prey to rampant frustration, he spends
Aug 03, 2012 Mac rated it really liked it
Morgan Leafy, a British diplomat in the small African republic of Kinjanja, is a bumbler in every regard. Trying to keep his job (while concurrently trying to get out of Kinjanja for a better posting), he confronts blackmail, bribery, venereal disease, a series of failed sexual encounters, and a dead body, which for a while is in the trunk of his car. Morgan's ineptitude and more broadly the British ineptitude are on overdrive throughout the novel.

There is a lot to like here. The story mixes jus
Aug 28, 2011 Emma rated it it was ok
I am going to preface this review by acknowledging that there are probably lots of people who will disagree with my assessment of this book and admitting that my feelings about it are a study in misinformed, and so disappointed, expectations. Basically, I didn't like it but then I was expecting something completely different which is down to me and has nothing to do with the author or the book! I have never read any William Boyd before but - for whatever reason - was expecting an empathetic expl ...more
Cailin Deery
May 19, 2016 Cailin Deery rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In a Good Man in Africa, we follow Morgan Leafy, First Secretary to the British Deputy High Commission, through his many tribulations in the fictional Nkongsamba (based in the fictional West African country of Kinjanja). He’s farcical to a painful degree. There is so much embarrassment, miscalculation, irresponsibility and naiveté throughout the novel (mostly with Leafy to blame). For a diplomat, Leafy is extremely impolitic. Somehow, his story is still hugely, wonderfully entertaining. I don’t ...more
It took me a while to get into this book, and, though I was glad I persevered, my 4 stars are more of a 3.5 in reality. Having read Boyd's most recent works (Any Human Heart, Restless etc.) I have always viewed him as the obvious heir to Grahame Greene, writing rather cynical, thrilling, profound, outsider-English novels. This book was unmistakably in that vein- Morgan Leafy, the unhappy, oversexed, overlooked diplomat in West Africa could have been the brother of Major Scobie in Heart of the ma ...more
Jul 09, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
Boyd, William. A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA. (1981). *****.
This was Boyd’s first novel, and was the winner of the Whitbread Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award. So far, I’ve only read one other of his novels, but, with luck, I’ll be able to get at the rest of them. He is one terrific writer. This novel, as you might guess, is set in Africa in the fictiional republic of Kinjanja. The protagonist is Morgan Leafy, a young man on his first assignment with the British diplomatic service. He tends to bumble
May 23, 2016 Ester rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember the last time I despised a main character so deeply. That is doubtless the intention, but I did not care at all what happened to Morgan Leafy. To be honest, every single other character was more interesting than him, and throughout the story I was holding on to the hope that Morgan would get publicly shamed, fired, exposed, or even die. I established no connection with him whatsoever.

Plotwise the third and last part of the novel is where the story finally began to pick up speed,
Jun 15, 2016 SarahP rated it liked it
This is a good enough book. Funny, not slap on thigh funny but still. It tells the story of a British expat appointed to the British Commission in a fictional West African country, with very low moral standards and capacity to introspection. He gets caught up in all sorts of things and blames the world for it, and all through that he might learn something... or not...

I've seen mixed review for this book, and I can understand why. I enjoyed it mainly because, as someone who has worked in Africa (
David Whittlestone
Jan 06, 2016 David Whittlestone rated it it was amazing
The few reviews I read before starting this book made me wish had not bought it. I'm glad I had. I found it a great read.

The prose was as always from Boyd, sharp, focussed and direct but always elegant without being pretentious. So it was a very easy light read. The story was an adventure in a west African state and clearly made use of Boyd's origins which he exploited to good effect.

The title is A Good Man in Africa and this is precisely what the hero came to be. He was a cad (though he would h
Mark Speed
Mar 05, 2014 Mark Speed rated it really liked it
Not Boyd's finest novel, but his first and a decent one. I seem to recall he felt he was under an enormous amount of pressure to get this baby out and I recognise first-novel traits in it. I've read some low reviews of this, and I understand what this is. The low reviews are from people who like late Boyd (which is a shadow of early-to-mid Boyd and apparently aimed at getting screenwriting gigs).

Boyd does a pretty decent job of ratcheting up pressure on a fallible character to crack him open. Bo
Michael Nixon
Oct 04, 2015 Michael Nixon rated it liked it
A postcolonial farce, not without humour. Reading it 34 years after its publication it does not rise to the comic heights of other comic novels Boyd' produced--Armadillo, for example--or build the tension of a dramatic novel like Ordinary Thunderstorms. Nonetheless it works, despite most of the characters, including anti-hero Morgan Leafy, being thoroughly obnoxious. The author makes no attempt to build empathy for them. And yet, there's a bit of "There but for the grace of god go I" about it. H ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Good Man in Africa is the story of one man's challenges as he attempts to fit in to two different cultures - the British colony and the local African population. The protaganist has to balance his values and desires as he is pulled in various directions by those he knows. His selfishness often trumps his moral values and results in viewing the world in a negative manner which may not actually be representative of what is real. I enjoyed this book because it is based around characters that I co ...more
Feb 17, 2009 Eliszard rated it really liked it
Boyd's first novel; brilliant mastery of plot and flash-back narrative; memorable turns of phrase ("the opaque, cloudy void of his ignorance seemed to stretch away in front of him"; "As he turned into his driveway and parked his car in the garage the options that were available to him presented themselves and were discarded. One: be honest, tell her the truth, or as much of it as was necessary... Two: forget it, simply go ahead as if nothing were wrong... Three: lie. His old friend Mendacity, or ...more
Jack London
Oct 08, 2013 Jack London rated it liked it
This was the first novel written by the man who now is Jane Gardam’s equal in British fiction. A minor diplomat in a minor African outpost is the bug; his consul, his girlfriend, his mistress, a corrupt local candidate (and his wife), and a truly upright Scottish doctor are the windshield in this story of a man who is being crushed on every front. It is a very fun read, its wattage reduced unfairly by the knowledge that in the future Boyd will write Any Human Heart and The Blue Afternoon. - See ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it
This is a very funny comic novel (recently re-published since it was issued in 1981) about the British colonial experience in a mythical African country called Kinjanja. The protagonist, Morgan Leafy, is a bumbling junior diplomat who wants desperately to be reassigned -- when he isn't boozing or womanizing. When oil is discovered off the coast of Kinjanja, the little country attracts high-level British attention (aka meddling), and Leafy is assigned the job of monitoring the leading candidate i ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Laurent rated it liked it
Good, but not great...

I suspect that this book must have made quite a stir when it first started getting attention. As a first novel, this is an interesting, funny and somewhat cynical look into the going ons of international politics. The lead character is thoroughly unlikeable and disguisting and for the most part, it's hard to really have any sympathy for anyone in this book (barring Murray). (Glad I'm not a politician!!!)

I previously read Brazziville Beach by Boyd which I would recommend ove
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Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in Moray, Scotland an
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