Two weeks ago I talked about Giles Foden‘s Turbulence. I enjoyed it so much that I was tempted to take The Last King of Scotland from the shelf and revisit it. What pleasure a well-written novel can give.
Foden creates a scene so effectively that the reader is with him in Mbarara, Uganda, where Dr Nicholas Garrigan is working as a doctor. Again we are seeing the world through the eyes of a rather gullible but very sincere protagonist who soaks in the African atmosphere that he shares with us.
When Idi Amin has an accident and Dr Garrigan is called to tend to him, he is drawn into Amin’s charismatic environment. Living in State House in Kampala, he witnesses for the reader the mesmerising fascination of Amin’s evil dictatorship. We relive the Entebbe operation and the Tanzanian ending of Amin’s hold on Uganda. It is a gripping narrative that draws us, too, into Amin’s circle and is loosely based on the character of Bob Astles, a European who was very close to Amin.
Like Garrigan, we are almost hypnotized by Idi’s voice but, like Garrigan, we also pick up hints of the atrocities that are taking place all over the country and we wonder how our narrator will escape and live to tell the story.