This is the story of an enterprising and resilient former antique-lace restorer and minicab driver with an obsession for trains in Africa. It is not a book about Africa, much less ‘a full account of modern Africa’, as Miles Bredin’s publishers claim. Anyone who reads the first page of abbreviations and acronyms and finds ‘ANC African National Congress (Zimbabwe)’, will get a flavour of the accuracy.
The worst parts of the book are the bits of potted history put in as background; these are a lethally misleading combination of clichés and errors. A selection from across the continent: ‘Communist dictator, Haile Mariam Mengistu, had deliberately tried to starve seven million people in the Ethiopian Live Aid