Synopses & Reviews
A rich and evocative novel about fidelity and betrayal, exploitation and colonialism.
Cape Town, 1899. Cecil Rhodes, the great imperialist and diamond tycoon, believes that he has only months to live, and that the only thing that can save him is the sound of English birdsong in the South African countryside surrounding his Cape residence.
"The Colossus," as Rhodes is known throughout South Africa, recruits Francis Wills, an Oxford don and the world's leading expert in birdsong, to transport two hundred British songbirds-blackbirds, nightingales, chaffinches, robins and starlings-by sea from Southampton to the Cape Province. But the birds, confused by the change of season and hemisphere, refuse to sing. This is but the first obstacle for Wills, who finds himself irresistibly drawn to intrigue-romantic, political, and ornithological-in a country on the brink of war.
Ann Harries' splendid first novel is cast with a host of sharply drawn real-life characters, among them Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll who are friends of Wills' in England, and Rudyard and Mrs. Kipling, intimates of Rhodes in his imperialist oasis.
About the Author
was born and educated in Cape Town, where she taught for several years and was involved in the anti-apartheid movement. She now lives in the Cotswolds, England, where she teaches music to visually impaired children.