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Christopher Ondaatje

Toronto, Lester & Orphen Dennys, 1989. 240pp, cloth, $35.00
ISBN 0-88619-266-8. CIP

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up
Reviewed by Barbara Camfield.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

Ondaatje recognizes his debt to earlier travellers to Africa who wrote about their experiences: Karen Blixen, Peter Matthiessen, Beryl Markam and Ernest Hemingway. Like Matthiessen's Snow Leopard (Bantam, 1979), Leopard in the Afternoon recounts a voyage of self-discovery in search of an elusive cat.

Ondaatje, a successful Bay Street financier, hoped to discover through a brief African safari a new direction for his corporate life. The personal quest fortunately assumes a very minor role in this voyage - fortunately - because the narration of the quest lacks the deep-seated conviction and element of hardship found in the descriptions of earlier travellers to Africa. Instead, the strengths of this book lie in the accounts of animal behaviour and in the presentation of marvellous photographs.

Reading snatches of the text and studying the photographs, the reader is quickly fascinated by this glimpse of the world's greatest game parks: the hair-raising cry of the hyena at night, the difference between the cheetah and other cats, the migration patterns of the wildebeest, how lions hunt, the danger posed by the African elephant, and the viciousness of the African hunting dog. The descriptions are often supplemented with outstanding photographs and carefully chosen quotations from the accounts of earlier travellers.

The author feels strongly that the African game parks hold the last great spectacle of wildlife in the world and that African countries need help preserving them. All royalties and profits from the sale of this book are being donated to the World Wildlife Fund for direction to the Tanzanian Wildlife Protection Fund.

Barbara Camfield, Ottawa, Ont.
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