Book Review: An African Millionaire

An African MillionaireAn African Millionaire by Grant Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply put, I love this book, and I look forward to reading Allen’s other works.

When I picked it up, I did not expect “African Millionaire” to be as deep and well-crafted as it turned out to be. It is not (no spoiler) at all what I expected, which was essentially a series of twelve “capers,” good guy against bad guy. Instead, I got a well-written, amusing bit of social commentary. Granted, it is not overt in its message, but Allen’s stories leave the reader with very little doubt as to whose side the author is taking.

While all commentaries state that Colonel Clay is the first “gentleman rogue” of literature, the true protagonist of the stories is Sir Charles, who presents an excellent type of the over-confident man of the world, whose self-styled shrewdness provides a perfect foil for his total lack of common sense. The genius of Allen’s style is that Vandrift is not at all an ironic character – the author takes him as seriously as he takes himself, and in so doing gives the reader a perfect view between the lines. This is underscored by the narrator, Wentworth, a character of unrivalled ambiguity and double vision. We know what he thinks of his brother-in-law at the same time that he does not.

Brilliantly written, and a must read (even if crime fiction is not your thing). Because, you see, that’s not really what it is…

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