In the opening of the book, we meet Edwards, as he narrates his story. Edwards’ parents live and work in Africa, and from a young age, it became apparent that their circumstances weren’t a good situation for a child. In a move that is foreign to us now, but was not uncommon 60 years ago, Edwards’ parents place him in a nursery type boarding school in England at a very young age, where he remains until he is old enough to attend a school that serves students of a more typical age. At that point, Edwards had traveled to Africa for a disappointingly brief visit with his parents before boarding the train that will take him to his new school and years of new adventures and trials.
The aspect the book that most enchanted me was its basis in the real-life childhood of Edwards. While the story is fiction, other alumni of the school have read it and attested to the authenticity of the stories. This is what it was really like to go there. So, in reading about the activities and adventures, we’re reading stories, yes, but about real adventures that real young boys had. I couldn’t help but find myself comparing the story of this youngster with Harry Potter – estranged by geography from his parents, constantly yearning for them, and heading off to adventures he’d not imagined. While the Harry Potter series is filled with great subtext, we delight in the fantasy aspect of the stories. In Kongwa Hill, we are graced with a story based in reality, not fantasy, and yet provides the same fears, hurdles, and triumphs.
In addition, Edwards (the author) provides us with first person perspective on the historical context of the book. In the narrative, we learn about the how of daily life. In the prologue, he provides a political background and explanation of the time. And, in the epilogue, he shares a word with us about the current state of education in Kongwa.
The Slope of Kongwa Hill is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.