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The Dust Diaries by Owen Sheers

This is a beautifully written book that vividly imagines the extraordinary life of a remarkable man.

Owen Sheers finds a book in his father’s study which puts him on the trail of one of his distant relations, Arthur Shearly Cripps, also a poet. The journey takes him from the Rhodes Library in Oxford to modern-day Zimbabwe to London as he traces the life of his missionary ancestor, who left England at the turn of the twentieth century for what was then Southern Rhodesia.

It is a lyrical conversation with a fellow poet, a mix of biography, travel writing and fiction that introduced me to the singular Arthur Cripps, who battled the British Administration in Southern Rhodesia fighting for the rights of its native people while falling in love with both the country and its people. I was very fond of him by the end of the book and shed a tear while reading the final pages when Owen comes closest to understanding his great-great Uncle.

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