Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The Civilized World by Susi Wyss

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780805093629

First of all I want to send a HUGE THANK YOU to Christine over at Henry Holt & Co. for sending me a copy of this book.  I absolutely hands-down... LOVED.. IT.

When I was first sent the email inquiring if I would like to read this novel, I was immediately drawn in by the cover.  Isn't is gorgeous?  And then I was told it was set in Africa, which I think I have mentioned, I have always loved to read books that are set there.  But especially now that my 4 year old daughter was born in Ethiopia, I have a particular fondness for books about Africa in general. 

I read this book in 2 days.  It was extremely engaging and although the cover says, "A novel in stories" (which at first makes it sound like a collection of short stories -- it's not), it weaves several story lines together in the most gentle way, and leaves you feeling very satisfied at the end. 

The novel follows the story of several characters, Ajoa and her twin brother Kojo being the "face" of the book, in my opinion.  I fell in love with Ajoa and her dream of opening a salon back in Ghana while she was a practicing massage therapist for foreigners in the Ivory Coast.  Her character reminded me of Mmm Precious Ramostwe from the #1 Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith.  She is instantly likeable and her vision of her salon as a means of providing freedom for her and her brother pulls the story along beautifully.  Even when her brother becomes desperate to leave the Ivory Coast for their beloved Ghana, she holds onto her dream while turning a blind eye to his fledgling criminal career -- to disastrous conclusion that would change her life forever.  Janice is the flip side of the story, a single woman living in Africa for decades and adopting an Ethiopian baby.  Janice was once Ajoa's employer, and it is through Janice that Ajoa is finally able to have peace with what happened to her brother in the Ivory Coast.  

There are other characters as well in the story, but they seem to just provide a further backdrop for the main story lines of Janice and Ajoa. 

Wyss' account of Africa is palpable, you can smell, taste and see clearly the landscape and people before you.  The author lived there for many years, and this lends an air of realism to the narrative, and pulls you into the setting and allows you to escape into the world she has created. 

If you liked Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies Detective series, you will really enjoy this book!

For more about Susi Wyss and The Civilized World you can visit the author's website here.

RATING:  4/5 

2 Blabs:

Natalie W said...

Sounds like a wonderful book! Love the cover too.
I'll definitely have to put this on my wish list.
Thanks Lisa!
Natalie :0)

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I think this cover is striking! I have this and can't wait to read it. I love when an author's writing makes me feel like I am right there in the setting. Great review!

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