It is 1951, and Ugo Fornari, a young Italian doctor, abandons his practice in Abruzzo, setting off with his family to the heart of Africa. With no job lined up, he travels from post-war Europe to pre-independence Tanganyika, where Italians are unwelcome. He arrives on an island in Lake Victoria, where there is neither running water nor electricity, and he is the only doctor for 70,000 people. Many years later, he describes this adventure as a ‘leap into the light’.
What challenges does Dr. Fornari face, and how does his wife Maria cope, with few resources and no knowledge of English or local languages? What is it like for his daughter, Paola, delivered on Ukerewe Island by her father’s hands, to grow up with her brother and sister in Musoma, Kigoma, and Mwanza, where their mother home-schools them? How does it feel to be sent off at the age of seven to boarding school in Nairobi, a journey of several days by steamer and train?
Join Paola Fornari Hanna, as she recounts the joys and disappointments of her childhood in a corner of the British Empire at its twilight, and at the dawn of African independence.
Chug along with Paola on steam trains through the cold Rift Valley to her convent school; feel her distress as illness detains her at the end of term; watch her tease the nuns with her classmates; celebrate as she leaves for Edinburgh University; share her exhilaration as she stands at Africa’s highest point, Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak, almost 6,000 metres above sea level.
This bygone world springs to life through Dr. Fornari’s black and white photos, Maria’s letters home to Italy, and Paola’s recollections. ‘Her writing is vivid and extremely readable. She has an eye for the unusual and the moving detail’ — Alexander McCall Smith.