In this assured début about loneliness and passion in Africa, Sue Eckstein enthrals with a deliciously intricate plot, compelling characters and razor-sharp dialogue.

West Africa in the early 1990s. Isabel Redmond is tiring of her iconoclastic husband’s penchant for pendulous black breasts; the High Commissioner and his wife Fenella are both enjoying illicit affairs; an old English judge is wandering through the scrub following a tribe of Fulani herdsmen; Bob Newpin is about to make a killing in timeshares; and just what Father Seamus is up to is anyone’s guess.

Enter new diplomat Daniel Maddison on his first posting abroad. Rebelling against the endless rounds of cocktail parties, golf and gossip, he finds himself drawn to people and places that lie way beyond the experience of his High Commission colleagues – and specifically to the dusty warehouse in the heart of the city where a thin white woman is silently measuring out lengths of brightly coloured cloth.

Order your copy of The Cloths of Heaven at, or read the first chapter by clicking here.


Vulpes Libris

The Cloths of Heaven is a wry, dust-dry character-observation-rich gem of a book with one of the most refreshing comic voices I’ve read for a long while… This book is a bright, witty companion – values and attitudes in the right place – acute, observant but also tolerant and understanding and not afraid of a sharp jibe or two. If this book was a person, I’d definitely invite it round to dinner. In fact, I might even take it down the pub.”

Hephzibah Anderson on “Up All Night” Radio 5 Live

“Graham Greene with a bit of Alexander McCall Smith thrown in. Very readable, very humorous – a charming first novel.”

Brigid Keenan

“A gripping new novel about ex-pat life in West Africa. A real treat.”

The Argus

“One of those brilliant books that offers an easy, entertaining read in the first instance, only to worm its way deeper into your mind. A modern Graham Greene – fabulous…fictional gold.”

Download full review here

“A fascinating novel – rich in dialogue with finely and sensitively drawn characters. If you like Armistead Maupin, Graham Greene or Barbara Trapido, you’ll love this.”


“Populated by a cast of miscreants and misfits this debut novel by playwright Eckstein is a darkly comic delight.”

Caroline Smailes

“Evocative, intriguing and with splashes of a modern Evelyn Waugh.”

Read full review and interview with the author


“A fantastically well-executed novel…the book is a joy to read. It is intriguing, exciting and just beautifully written.”

Read full review

Thoughts from Botswana

“A delightful book, likely you’ll read it at one sitting it’s quite difficult to put down once you’re pulled in.”

Read full review

Jackie Wills

“I couldn’t put this novel down…Eckstein’s book will contribute to an important body of fiction written about the continuing relationship between African and European countries. Her background with VSO and now her work in medical ethics ensures that her perspective is informed, intelligent and demanding. This incisive intellect also delivers some fascinating, complex characters who won’t necessarily behave the way you expect.”

Read full review

Chez Aspie

“The Cloths of Heaven is a treasure. The scented evenings, heavily weighted with West African heat, seemed to rise from the pages as I read. The characters are unexpectedly real. At times I felt an inkling of what it must feel like to be a stalker; that urge to vicariously experience more of another’s life, the reluctance to be parted from them. I felt a slight sense of grief as the novel ended simply because it finished so perfectly and, I wanted to spend more time in their world.”

Read full review

Britain-Nigeria Educational Trust

“Marvellous on several levels…as good a page-turner as a thriller, with the lingering and satisfying afterglow of the best literary novels. When you’ve bought one copy and read it, you will probably find yourself buying more as gifts for friends.”

5 Responses to “The Cloths of Heaven”

  1. Hello Sue – could you tell me whether the novel is set in a particular country in West Africa, or is it a fictional country representing various countries in the region?


  2. Sue Eckstein Says:

    Hi Suzi. Thanks for getting in touch. The Cloths of Heaven is set in a fictional country not unlike The Gambia where I worked for a number of years. I think any reader who had visited/was thinking of visiting The Gambia would very much recognise the place. I hope this answers your question. (I like your Packabook site!)

  3. That helps very much thank you! Am still quite working out what I do about fictional countries “not unlike” real countries in terms of Packabook! But I’m sure once I get round to adding The Gambia to Packabook, I’ll be able to sneak this one in, with caveats! Finding novels set in some African countries can be a challenge so I am always delighted when I come across them. Glad you like the site – thousands of books and hundreds of countries still to add…

  4. sueeckstein Says:

    Great – I very much look forward to seeing The Cloths of Heaven on your lovely site one day. I can recommend The Shadow of a Smile by Kachi A. Ozumba set in Nigeria and The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna set in Sierra Leone. Do two-country novels count? My second novel, Interpreters, is set in Germany and the UK…

  5. Thank you for the recommendations – always helpful! I am, in fact, just about to start ‘Interpreters’ and looking forward to it. I thoroughly enjoyed Cloths of Heaven. I will sometimes include books set in two countries – it really depends on how much of a sense of place you get from the book. Some really make you feel like you understand the place, others are much more character-driven and the location itself is not so important to the story… my audience have an expectation that the books I choose will almost make them feel like they’ve been to that place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s