Marianne's Reviews > The Clouds Beneath The Sun

The Clouds Beneath The Sun by Mackenzie Ford
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Feb 13, 11

bookshelves: 2011reads, africa, anthropology, drama, history, kenya, masai, family, archaeology
Read from February 01 to 13, 2011

You know, I think until the last chapter of this book I was almost considering giving it 5 stars, and after the last chapter I was going to downgrade it to 2, such was the difference the last chapter made in how I felt about it. Against my better judgement I'm going to split the difference even though the final chapter really ruined my over-all impression of the book. I don't know how your tagline can be 'Love-whatever the cost' and end it the way it ended.

Ignoring the final chapter, there was lots about this book I liked. The setting at an archaeological dig in Kenya was fascinating, as was the history of the local Masai tribe and the politics between tribal law and 'white' law in the time period. It basically ticked a lot of boxes in terms of my own interests lie.

The main character is Natalie - a 20 something who joins the dig in Kenya of a renowned archaeologist Eleanor Deacon. Natalie is nursing her wounds after the death of her mother, estrangement from her father and the abandonment of her married lover and goes to the gorge to work.

An important discover is made almost immediately on her arrival and she suggests that before the scientists who made the discovery can jump the gun and publish their findings, that they compare the bones they found with more recent bones. The two doctors, unwilling to wait for proper procedure then go and raid a Masai grave, stealing bones in order to verify their findings.

The grave robbing is what sets the rest of the events of the book into motion as one of the doctors is murdered by a Masai man and Natalie is the only one who can identify that the man was in the vicinity of the murder scene.

The book for me is at its most successful when it is dealing with the cultural complexities between what is acceptable under different rules of law. There is a political under-current in the book, where you see scientists trying to broker ways in which to protect their findings, while placating two very different sides in a country on the brink of independence as both sides are attempting to get a foothold in the new Kenya and see the trial as a way to make it happen.

The characters were generally well rounded and complex. Natalie could have perhaps been a little less self-involved (I was almost at the stage of wanting to throttle her at times in the book for mentioning Dominic) and perhaps a little too rigid in her thinking regarding the multiple marriages acceptable in Masai society considering she, herself, had been quite happy to engaged in a relationship with a married lover. I would say that her appeal to the men around the camp was a little ridiculous, but they were in the middle of nowhere and she was an attractive, intelligent woman so I suppose options were limited considering the only other woman available was Eleanor who was in her 60's. ;)

The dynamics between Natalie and the Deacons - both with Eleanor and Eleanor's sons (Christopher and Jack) was pretty fascinating. Eleanor, the older matriarch of the archaeological world who ran her digs with an iron fist was actually extremely likeable for me, even as she riled Natalie up. Christopher, a quiet and introverted guy seemed almost fascinated with Natalie, but he was slow to act until his brother arrived and then it almost became more about his own jealous nature than anything else. Jack was charming, and intelligent and passionate and a very easy character to like and it was easy to see why Natalie was drawn to him (even if at times it wasn't always easy to see why he was drawn to Natalie.)

As I said, the book does a lot right and if it hadn't been for the ending then I think I would have really loved it. (view spoiler)
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