Synopses of A Fool's Knot and Mission
by Philip Spires

A Fool’s Knot is a sensitive portrait of a man’s attempt to reclaim his cultural identity and, at the same time, stimulate change. The contradictions he must confront in his campaign against the grinding poverty of his people lead almost inevitably to conflict.

John Mwangangi is an idealist. He turns his back on a successful legal career in London to return to his home in Migwani, a small, poor town in eastern Kenya. His ambition is to assist his country’s development, to create a model that others might emulate. But in trying to rediscover his roots and his very identity, old tensions resurface and new battles have to be fought. John gradually finds himself isolated by irreconcilable demands, excluded from his own culture, never fully admitted to the one he adopts. His father seeks proof of his son’s integrity and insists that John’s daughter be initiated into adulthood, an act that John’s wife would never sanction. And when the tensions force the family apart, John finds solace in the company of Janet Rowlandson, a young British volunteer teacher, who becomes more than a friend. It becomes clear that someone will try to force the issue.

 

 

 

Mission is set in mid-1970s Kenya. Five characters, a priest, a politician, a teacher, a school graduate and a retired army officer see a series of events from their own perspectives and thus respond differently to one particular event. The central chapter is thirty years later and is set in London to offer a perspective on how lives change. The novel deals with the concept of identity, seen through filters of poverty, religion, politics and, underpinning everything, an idea of justice, a continuum within which each character is seen to pursue some personal mission.

Michael, a missionary priest in Kenya, has just killed Munyasya, a retired army officer. It might have been an accident, but Mulonzya, a politician resentful of the power of foreign churches, tries to exploit the tragedy for his own ends. Boniface, a young church worker, and his wife, Josephine, have just lost their child. They did not make it to the hospital in time, possibly because Michael made a detour to retrieve a letter from the Mission, a letter from Janet, a former volunteer teacher who was the priest’s neighbour for two years. It is Munyasya who has the last laugh, however, when he reveals that he was probably in control of events all along. Thirty years on, the same characters find their lives still influenced by his memory.

 

 A Search for Donald Cottee is a comic tragedy about individualism. Donald, nicknamed Donkey, is an internet Quixote, bent on doing good works. Donkey Cottee and his wife, Poncho Suzie, have retired to Benidorm on Spain’s Costa Blanca from their Yorkshire mining village. Don has left behind his incessant self-education and Suzie has turned the corner of her illness. Their new life is parked on the La Manca campsite from where they pursue their ambition of eternal holiday. To record the precious experience and make its potential paradise available to all, they blog. But they can never escape their Yorkshire origins. Episodes from the past reappear. Meanwhile, Don’s environmental campaigning and Suzie’s quest for business success fill their time. However, they discover that friends are transacting the businesses of their own lives. There is money in vice, more in property, even more in trading people. In a world where competition is the norm, where a dog’s only possible diet is another dog, Don and Suzie are determined to do good works, be honest and loyal to all, to support what is right. But then, in the final analysis, when the jigsaw of lives is broken apart, it appears that perhaps the pieces never did fit. So finally, still trying to do good, Donkey Cottee and Poncho Suzie leave us with an enigma. Or is it a riddle?

You can read my blog here

footer image

Home About Me Synopses One on One A Search For Donald Cottee Mission A Fool's Knot Voyagers Martin Offiah Reviews Articles Links Contact Purchase Amazon Store New writers

 

B

o

o

k

s

 

b

y

 

P

h

i

l

i

p

 

S

p

i

r

e

s