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Out of Darkness, Shining Light

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  906 ratings  ·  239 reviews
This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land. So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africathe captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's ...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Scribner
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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 ·  906 ratings  ·  239 reviews


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Debra
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
"...all I want is to go somewhere no one has ever been, and gaze at the sky and look for miles around to see nothing but trees and hear nothing but birds."

David Livingstone was a Scottish physician, missionary and explorer who was determined to learn the source of the Nile River. He also hoped to use his influence to stop the east African Arab Swahili slave trade. He died in Africa in 1873 from Malaria and Dysentery. His heart was buried under a tree where he died and his remains (and his
...more
Angela M
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brought by faithful hands over land and sea here rests David Livingstone, missionary traveler, philanthropist, born March 19, 1813, at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, died May 1, 1873, at Chitambos Village, Ulala. Plaque on the grave of Livingstones babes, Westminster Abbey, England.

His bones lie there in his homeland, even though he died in Africa because he was esteemed and loved. I cant say that I knew very much about Dr. David Livingstone. Certainly I knew some basics. He was a medical doctor, an
...more
Fran
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scottish explorer and medical missionary, David Livingstone, relentlessly searched for the source of the Nile, the world's longest river. In the final two years of his life, he still had "Nile madness". In the opinion of Livingstone's acerbic cook Halima, the Nile had been there since time began. The river would continue to flow whether the source was found or not. Halima's advice, "...go home to your children, find a wife 'to warm your bed'." Livingstone refused to return to England despite ...more
Liz
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
2.5 stars, rounded down
Another book where Im in the minority. This is the story of David Livingstone, both his life and death while searching for the origin of the Nile. Told to us by Halima, his sharp tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a freed slave turned Christian convert, we get two vividly contrasting stories. But both stories capture not only the unique relationship between Bwana Daudi and the blacks that were on his expedition, but also the relationship between the English and the
...more
Hannah Greendale
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Patience and persistence are essential to sinking into this book. It lacks the compulsive qualities of Gappah's 2016 Women's Prize nominee, The Book of Memory, but it does demonstrate the same acuity of narrative voice. In terms of craft, this seemed like a possible contendor for the 2020 Women's Prize; however, now that the judges have specified what they were looking for, it's clear this book lacks the contemporary traits needed for a 2020 nomination. Ultimately, Out of Darkness, Shining Light ...more
Faith
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Im rather torn about this review because, while the idea of transporting Dr. David Livingstones body home to England is interesting, I didnt enjoy the book very much. Maybe it just didnt meet my expectation that this would be more of an adventure story. Livingstone was obsessed with finding the source of the Nile. This book deals with the last few months of his life, when he was sick, and the subsequent trek across Africa that was undertaken by his servants in order to return his body (or at ...more
Will
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5

An excellent historical novel that focuses on the men and women who, carrying David Livingstones body, marched 1500 miles across central Africa to the coast so that his remains could be returned to England. It casts a sharp eye on slavery and colonization while telling a story filled with love, loyalty, revenge and murder.

One of two narrators, Halima, Livingstones female cook:

I tell you, to think that there were simply thousands and thousands of people like the Bwana, and women too, far away
...more
Nancy Oakes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Kay
I received this from Netgalley.com for a review.

This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.

This book just didn't grab my imagination. The story is very densely packed and I was disappointed that Livingstone didn't play a more prominent part of the tale.

2☆
...more
Jennifer
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Out of Darkness, Shining Light" tells the story of how dozens of loyal men and women "carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land." The novel describes exploration, adventure and love as the caravan traveled 1500 miles. It also touches on racism, cultural differences and family dynamics.
I appreciate author Petina Gappah's hard work and research. Unfortunately, I was expecting an
...more
Nancy
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
"This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Duadi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sear and buried in his own land."~ from Out of Darkness, Shining Light (Being a Faithful Account of the Final Years and Earthly Days of Doctor David Livingstone and His Last Journey form the interior to the Coast of Africa, as Narrated by His African Companions, in Three Volumes) by Petina Gappah

Truth is often stranger than fiction, for who would imagine
...more
Kelly
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Sometimes I worry that I am too stingy with 5 star reviews. I'll read something and think it's great, but not quite 5 stars for me.

Then I read a book like this. The books I save my 5 stars for, so that my 5 stars really mean something. This book is fantastic. I learned about Livingtone and his expeditions, something I didn't really know about previously. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books, and similarly, this book took us into the intricacies of Africa in the face of colonization.
...more
Sarah-Hope
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
Written in a pair of completely dissimilar voices, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, recounts the journey taken across Africa to bring the body of David Livingstone to the coast whence it could be returned to England. The journey, decided upon by the Africans traveling with Livingstone at the time of his death, is historical fact. The novel is both an attempt to make vivid the journey as it happened and an exploration of alternate ways that journey might have been experienced by those undertaking ...more
Suzanne
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not finishing a book always feels a little like admitting failure. But there are others to be read, so I forge ahead.

I got halfway through and just couldn't do it. It's a fascinating concept: the story of moving Dr. Livingstone's (deceased) body from the interior jungle of Africa to the coast to be shipped home to England. Sounds kind of strange, but it's told from the perspective of two specific Africans who were part of his "team" (i.e guides, cooks, "laborers", etc). Rather than alternating
...more
Andrea
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The setting:

"...story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary [Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David] Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave..."

A tough read because at least at the beginning, the introduction of SO MANY CHARACTERS and SO MUCH
...more
Jan
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah creates a fascinating work of historical fiction reconstructing the 8-month journey some of David Livingstons African workers took to transport his body to a coastal city so it could be shipped to England for burial. Gappah gives us two memorable characters and uses their stories to tell a compelling story while exploring the impacts of Imperialism and Christianity. Narrators Nyasha Hatendi and Sibongile Mlambo,bring the first-person perspectives to life in the ...more
Rebecca
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I may be in the minority, but this book just did not work for me.  I love historical fiction and especially love those stories based on true people and events.  I do not know much about Dr. David Livingstone and had not read many books about 19th century Africa so I was really intrigued by this book.  I love unreliable narrators. However, I just could not get into this book.  I don't know if it was the slow slow pace or the fact that there is a lot of information, but no background or ...more
Darla
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fascinating story of the expedition to carry David Livingstone's body to the sea so he could be buried at Westminster Abbey in England. The plaque on his grave says, "Brought by faithful hands over land and sea here rests David Livingstone, missionary traveller, philanthropist, born March 19, 1813, at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, died May 1, 1873, at Chitambo's Village, Ulala."
Gappah in her Acknowledgements indicates that she spent almost twenty years writing this book. Her research shines as we
...more
Deborah
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" The familiar question is attributed to journalist/explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who came to Africa in search of David Livingstone, a Welsh physician and missionary who had set out to find the source of the Nile but had not been heard from for six years. If you expect Livingstone's story to be the focus of 'Out of Darkness, Shining Light,' you may be disappointed--although his corpse is central to the novel. Gappah gives us two narrators who are among the mourners ...more
Marcy prager
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book, worth the read. David Livingstone's dream was to find the Fountains of Herodotus in order to discover the source of the Nile River. He left his family in England while he traversed the continent of Africa. This book, unlike other books about David Livingstone, tells about "Bwani Dauda" through two of the people who journeyed with him. One person was his cook, Halima, who was bought by David Livingstone for one of his men on the journey. Livingstone had promised to ...more
Debbie
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a hard one to rate. I may have rated it higher more for the subject than for the writing but whatever; I thought it was a story well-told.

One of my (younger) co-workers asked me what I was reading and as I was explaining I realized "wow, he doesn't have a clue who I am talking about!" Our generation was brought up with phrases like "Dr Livingstone I presume?". And though we may have forgotten that he was searching for the source of the Nile we do remember that he spent a lot of years
...more
Bob
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Summary: A historical fiction narrative, told in two voices, of the attendants of Dr. David Livingstone, who with a large company carried the body of Livingstone from Chitambo, where he died, to Zanzibar, a journey of over 1500 miles and 285 days.

Pettina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer who offers us an African perspective on the last journey of Dr. David Livingstone, through the eyes and words of two of his attendants, part of the group that carried his body 1500 miles so that it might be returned
...more
Lisa
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
3.75

This book journals the aftermath of Dr. David Livingtones death; English physician, missionary and humanitarian. It is delivered from two POVs; his female cook, Halimi and from Jacob Wainwright, a Christian missionary. Dr. Livingstone has bestowed himself a man of great significance among their people. He is deified because of his contributions to their village. (He is referred to as Bwana (Master) Daudi, and Halimi, is his favorite slave to a white muzungu.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the spirited
...more
Mary
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zimbabwean author Petina Gappahs new book, Out of Darkness, Shining Light fits into that category of novel occupied by Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea and Laila Lalamis The Moors Account, where a familiar story is told from the point of view of some of its marginalized participants. In this case, the story is Dr. David Livingstones travels and death in Africa, and the transportation of his body overland to the sea by the Africans in his retinue so that it could be returned for burial in Britain. ...more
Victoria
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thanks to Scribner and Netgalley for sharing an advance copy of this novel. This was an okay read, but I didnt find it as engaging as I thought I would. As other reviewers have stated, it is not a fast paced book. I felt reading it at times was as plodding as the trek described in the book. In terms of historical fiction, the author has done a great job researching and giving you the feeling of being there. As for the characters, I found to be too close to caricatures. And the tale itself, while ...more
lisa
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's interesting that I never thought much about Dr. David Livingstone until earlier this year when he was briefly mentioned in the beginning of the novel The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell. And now this novel, a story not really about Dr. Livingstone, but about his death, and the journey to bring his body back to England.

This amazing novel is told from two different points of view: Jacob Wainwright, and Halima. I loved Halima, and I wish the whole story had been told from her view. She was such a
...more
D.J. Mitchell
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Out of Darkness, Shining Light (ODSL) is as authentic a read as there ever was. Steeped in research and study, ODSL infuses the reader with an interest in Doctor David Livingstone, his African adventures, and the loyal souls who accompanied him on his expedition. ODSL focuses on the part of the harrowing journey after Livingstones death when the decision is made to return Livingstones body to his beloved Great Britain. The dialogue feels real. The internal and external personal struggles ...more
Jade
What an amazing story! Out of Darkness, Shining Light is the story of how David Livingstones body was carried across the African continent by those who has accompanied him on his journey while alive. Told through the words of Halima, his cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a freed slave, with extracts from the doctors own journals framing each chapter, the novel depicts a heroic adventure that has never been told in such a manner before.

Petina Gappah writes beautifully, and created two very distinct
...more
Viral
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Simon and Shuster for the ARC at BEA 2019!

This book was an interesting and relatively novel story about the people who brought British colonizer David Livingstone's body back to England. While I found the writing and style interesting (and enjoyed the descriptions of a colonizing central Africa), I found the main plot line to be ehh and not nearly as interesting as the stories of the people carrying Livingstone's body. A quick and interesting historical fiction book, but I wish this
...more
The Artisan Geek
May 23, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcase


23/5/19
The people over at Scribner were SO nice to send me this book!!

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Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organisation that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries.

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