Published: 02/01/2014
ISBN: 9781783061990
eISBN: 9781783068043
Format: Paperback/eBook



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Artist, Activist, Author: Storyteller I write and paint because I am a storyteller. I have always made stories, though at times I’ve been lost for direction, identity and method. I paint to explore a... read more

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The Shaping of Water
by Ruth Hartley

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The Shaping of Water is a character-driven story, following the different but overlapping lives of those who are connected to a ramshackle cottage by a man-made lake in Central Africa during the Liberation wars across its region. The characters are connected in ways they can't imagine by past secrets and future tragedies. Will these connections remain hidden or be uncovered by the characters' decisions and actions?

From Patrick the Jesuit, to Andy the Selous Scout; from Marielise, lover of revolutionaries Jo and Luke, to Margaret the banker’s wife; from Natombi and Milimo whose home is drowned by the lake, to Manda, a young woman trying to make her marriage work; the characters are shaped by the rising lake and increasing violence in Africa.

The dramatic plot is about damage and survival, passion and uncertainty, adaptation and love, set against a background of escalating war. It tells the story of a world turned upside-down by cynical politicians and reinvented by the courage of ordinary people. Enriched by a detailed knowledge of the history, geography and environment of the region and the variety of its fully realised characters, this book has wide appeal.

The novel is imbued with the light, colour and flavour of the landscape, of the lake and of the cottage. The reader will discover new worlds through this riveting novel and remember them long afterwards.

The author has spent most of her life in Africa and lived through the events described in this book. Unique in its context, breadth and depth of insight into a particular period of time, in a little-explored place, this book is economic in style, evocative and well written.

The Shaping of Water is a good read with characters and a plot that will affect your heart, challenge your ideas, and remain in your memory. It will appeal to intelligent and thoughtful lovers of good fiction, travellers and explorers – both actual and armchair.

Relevant links:

https://www.facebook.com/StopTheBatokaDamOnTheZambeziRiver
https://www.facebook.com/lowerzambezi
https://www.newsday.co.zw/2014/03/20/kariba-dam-wall-faces-collapse/
http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v7/wn/newsworld.php?id=1023056
http://bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-national-byo-44551.html#sthash.NegCMnQy.VDq2bukl.gbpl

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“THE TIN HEART GOLD MINE”
The Tin Heart Gold Mine is the story of Lara, a young and gifted wildlife artist. She lives and works in Chambeshi, a fictional African country whose increasing destabilisation by the Cold War results in riots and a coup attempt. Success has come early for Lara but she is not satisfied. She wants to understand the true measure of artistic worth.
At an exhibition of her work she meets two very different men who have an enormous influence on her. Tim, an investigative journalist, becomes her friend. Oscar offers to make her rich by promoting her art. Lara likes Tim but is attracted to Oscar, who owns the small and unproductive Tin Heart gold mine yet is surprisingly wealthy and powerful. She wants love but how easy is it to tell the difference between love and sex in a new relationship? Does her thirst for success make her susceptible to Oscar even if his past and the source of his money are shrouded in mystery?

The story begins in London several years after Lara has left Chambeshi. Tim is leaving Lara and her son Adam to return to Africa. He is furious because Lara has received a legacy from Oscar, now apparently dead. As the past unburies itself Lara collapses into depression. Will she be able to survive all the betrayals of her past?

WHY I WROTE “THE TIN HEART GOLD MINE”
My life in Zambia gave me great respect for its people and a love for its wilderness, its wild animals and its natural beauty. I feel however that there is a real lack of stories set in the period that I lived there. It was a time full of confusion and conflict and as the colonial era came to an end it struggled with the fallout from the Cold War and problems of lack of development. That provided me with the political and historical background. I had also met many interesting and varied people who were passionate about Africa. Some of them may not have been good or altruistic but they were always surprising and often courageous. All these things inspired me to write The Tin Heart Gold Mine.
The “Tin Heart Gold Mine” had almost as long a gestation period as my first published book “The Shaping of Water”.
The idea for it came to me while visiting a safari camp near a defunct copper mine some 26 years ago. It was an extraordinary site – an ugly gash in the bush hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. It recalled all those tales of old explorers and gold-hunters who made punishing and dangerous journeys into the wilderness in the forlorn hope of becoming wealthy and ended up trapped by their dreams. My own father and his younger brother had searched for gold on the rough hillside above their farm when they were only teenagers. They got their African farm labourers to dig pits in the rocky ground of the kopje. Each pit was as long and deep as a grave and, as they were never filled in, they became deadly traps for unwary animals and walkers in the bush. As a child I understood the fascination and the unfulfilled promises of gold. I remember the bellows of cattle dying from accidental cyanide poisoning from the mine dump at a tiny mine close to our farmstead. My father had worked on the isolated Phoenix goldmine during the 1930s depression; moreover I had an alcoholic aunt with a blasting licence for a gold mine. I understood the greed that grows out of desperation and deprivation.
I wanted to write a new version of Kurtz, the exploitative colonial villain in Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness” but I also wanted a female protagonist who was driven into danger by her passion for art and sex. Moreover I wanted to write of the beauty, the fragility and the strength of the African wilderness. I had grown tired of the racist scenario which white Europeans used to attribute the failures and political instability in developing countries to Africa and Africans alone. European wars and imperial ambitions had impacted on the continent for 100s of years, as Joseph Conrad's book shows. Readers too often imagine that the dark heart is African while in fact it is the heart of Mr. Kurtz that is black. Independence did not put an end to neo-colonial interference in Africa. That was one input into this story. Colonialism leads to wars but the people displaced after European wars first became economic migrants and then neo-colonialists. Neither always from choice.

http://www.ruthhartley.com

The Displaced Nation

Surviving Monsters

Surviving Monsters

Lusaka Voice, 17th February

Female First, 1 February

Amazon.co.uk, 21 January

Amazon France, 19 January

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