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.
SOME REVIEWS OF THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN
“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.”
“A gripping new novel about ex-pat life in West Africa. A real treat.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Evocative, intriguing and with splashes of a modern Evelyn Waugh.”
“A fantastically well-executed novel…the book is a joy to read. It is intriguing, exciting and just beautifully written.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”