978-0-06-093080-6 / 9780060930806

Hello to the Cannibals: A Novel


Publisher:Harper Perennial



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About the book:

Two women. Two centuries. One novel. It's an almost unthinkable challenge, but one that Richard Bausch (In the Night Season, Someone to Watch Over Me), commits to fully in Hello to the Cannibals. Bausch imagines a time-defying friendship emerging between Mary Kingsley, the famous Victorian explorer, and Lily Austin, a college dropout in the late 1980s who shows signs of having a promising future as a playwright. How these two women are connected, whether through stifling domestic circumstances, thwarted affections, or sheer determination, remains questionable throughout this huge novel, but it's fun to suppose, in any case. Mary, an autodidact who began a love affair with the West Coast of Africa near the end of her short life, was sentenced to a life of spinsterhood and servitude inside her own family. Lily, by contrast, is a modern woman whose hasty young marriage results in her living with her husband's estranged and whiskey-soaked family. Both heroines write their deepest fears and hopes in letter form, thus writing to and answering each other. But Bausch, in dealing with a real person's life in fictional form in contrast to an entirely fictional creation, further loads Mary Kingsley's story with a richer authenticity. Blending historical fiction and contemporary fiction would be considered an act of literary daring in lesser hands; it's a very good thing, then, that Bausch's writing is timeless, bold, and genuine throughout. --Emily Russin

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