Look on the brighter side...

A book on everything that--s good about Botswana-- Will Randal, in his book --Botswana Time-- paints a warm portrait of the country.
Look on the brighter side...
Look on the brighter side...

The opening sentence in Botswana Time, the new book by Will Randall, the author of the much-praised Indian Summer, reads like a parody of travel writing &ldquoSliding slowly towards sleep, I closed eyes that stung with delicious heat-induced torpor.&rdquo  By the bottom of that first page we have a tin roof that &ldquoclattered and crackled&rdquo, &ldquofat, warm raindrops&rdquo, &ldquothe African sun&mdashsurely the fiercest in the world&rdquo, a &ldquopercussive rumble of sound&rdquo, and &ldquohill ranges of black, potent clouds rumbling and rolling.&rdquo  For all this exhaustive description&mdashand Randall is unable to pass an elephant without burbling about this &ldquocolossal, graceful beast&rdquo or its &ldquoluminously white tusks&rdquo&mdashthere is little perception at work here.

Randall gives the game away at the outset. Botswana Time, he announces in his dedication, &ldquois a book for optimists.&rdquo And sure enough he makes for a genial companion, always ready with a gentle quip, a jolly anecdote he&rsquos a bracing, Panglossian figure always eager to look on the bright side of life.

In many ways he and Botswana are made for each other. Botswana is a small, outrageously beautiful country with a lot to be pleased about. Four decades of unbroken civilian rule, progressive policies and diamonds has meant that Botswana&rsquos economy is one of Africa&rsquos most robust. Randall&rsquos portrait is flushed with warmth. But the &lsquoWooster in the bush&rsquo style is inimical to complexity. There are real people here, and a real country, but they&rsquore obscured in the good-natured fog that surrounds this book.

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