"Africans, he said, were people, not possessions or ‘things’. 'I’m an African,' Emmanuel said, 'or have you forgotten that?'"

To be whisked away to another place and time is one of the joys books provide. Here, the place is West Africa, and the time is the 1950s. This memoir recounts the period leading up to, during, and just after the colony of Ghana gained its independence from British rule. It is written by an Englishman who soldiered there, then later turned his diaries, notebooks, and memories into a chronicle of his experiences.

While the book aptly conveys a young man’s immersion in a military environment far from hearth and home, it is so much more. Through the eyes and reminiscences of one young soldier, readers experience a piece of history and an exotic world that most Westerners know little about. From harsh weather to strange flora, fauna, and animal life to the African people themselves, Wedd details events, travels, and friendships that are frequently engaging and often memorable. Some standouts include a man trying (or perhaps feigning) to commit suicide by sticking his head down a latrine opening, a remarkable trip to Timbuktu, tribal celebrations that virtually defy description, and Ghana’s independence along with its troubled aftermath.

Wedd is a first-rate writer skilled in both prose and dialogue. He deftly captures the pidgin English frequently used at that time by both Africans and Englishmen as shorthand communication. His vividly written depictions add insightful color to the many black and white photographs highlighting tiny villages, exotic animals, ancient cities, and longtime comrades. Perhaps best of all, however, he gives readers a truly authentic snapshot in time of the habitat, the humanity, and the dignity of a place that was once known as the Sunshine Land.

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