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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Africa's Unfinished Symphony is the work of Lucia Mann, a former journalist, who was born in South Africa. The story opens as a young man attempts to roust an elderly woman, Vimbela, who has Down's Syndrome, and is lying prone on the burial site he is to excavate to make way for an extension to a game park in Kenya. Madegiza Umdaba cannot bear to follow his boss's orders and crush her with his earth-moving machine. He approaches her, shocked at her nudity and the fact that in her distress she has soiled herself. Vimbela tells him about the souls who lie there in the burial ground -- her child, the white baby she wet-nursed, her brother, the chief Anele, and all the people who were part of her life. Her tribe and its village are all gone now, the people relocated to Soweto and the village razed. Sister Bertha, who had been born as Farida, a Muslim child, had supervised the relocation and only after the people were settled in to their temporary housing, did she realize that Vimbela had hidden and is still back there.
Lucia Mann's historical novel, Africa's Unfinished Symphony is a remarkable story of intertwined lives that span from the mid-1940s to 2009. It's an insider's look into the past and a sad commentary on what is still happening in Africa today. Sister Bertha is a complex and fascinating character whose life revolves around the children she teaches. When I began reading this book, I had a Westerner's superficial concept of Africa. I knew of, and protested against, apartheid and rejoiced when Mandela was freed from prison and became president, but I didn't really know anything about the lives of the African people. I know a lot more now. Africa's Unfinished Symphony is riveting and a book I sat spellbound reading from cover to cover. It's an amazing and an important work and highly recommended.