Troubador So Little to Go On

Released: 28/04/2021

ISBN: 9781800462533

eISBN: 9781800469624

Format: Paperback/eBook

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So Little to Go On

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Nita is a young teacher who is stationed in central Africa when a military coup forces her to be recalled. At a small airstrip, she joins a group of local citizens and foreigners who have all missed the flight that she's stunned to learn might have been the last one out. As tensions rise, Leandro, a charismatic Angolan journalist, tries to unite disparate travellers around a story-telling game. An intervention by Vernon, an elderly archaeologist, results in the adoption of an unlikely theme: who were the artists of the Palaeolithic era and why did they paint in caves?

The game starts off tentatively, but soon everyone is drawn in - only to be stopped short with signs of impending danger getting closer. After failed attempts to find out more, the group decides to embark on a long walk to safety, agreeing to continue the story-telling along the way to distract themselves from the threats around them. Many of the travellers dread their turn but no one refuses. Some opt for fables, some seek clues from personal experience, others make thinly disguised arguments for their beliefs, while a few attempt a literal account of events that might have happened. 

But does their game about the past contain a subtle warning about their future they should heed...before it's too late?

So Little to Go On is a novel with an unusual and ingenious double plot, skilfully crafted. An international group of sixteen passengers, almost half of whom are returning from a conference, are marooned in a small African air strip as a result of a political coup. They tell stories to pass the time. An archaeologist begins with an anecdote referring to the uncertain roots of ancient cave paintings. The following morning they set off for a several day walk to the border in an attempt to flee encroaching danger. They continue telling stories about the imagined origins of cave art. The story-telling is punctuated by alarming incidents in the framing plot. Each speaker constructs a different version of events. They have so little to go on.

by Mary Searle-Chatterjee


I’m quite a critical reader of fiction now, as there are only so many plots. I really liked the simple plot in this book where an unlikely group of people from a wide range of backgrounds are forced to set off on a long trek to avoid the danger of a sudden military coup. Each of the disparate members of the group agrees to tell a story around cave paintings.

What’s fascinating about this book is the range and depth of the stories, beautifully told, but each relevant to today’s world. I was mesmerised by the fertility of ideas - feminism, climate change, political theory....

A finely crafted novel which is to be savoured in bite sized pieces.

by Janette Rutterford


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