review page logo

The Cloths of Heaven

by Sue Eckstein

This fascinating novel about an expatriate community in West Africa is clearly the work of a very professional author, who brings to it a knowing, beady eye and an acute understanding of the use of irony. THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN is entertaining and rewarding. Sue Eckstein has written a well-observed, satirical account of what one must suppose is a fairly typical collection of ex-pats: clinging together but quarrelling amongst themselves; drinking too much; barely noticing ‘the natives’; rolling in and out of bed with one another while at the same time slagging one another off: these are all habits which are quite commonly prevalent among a group of British people thrown together, far from home, and with too little to do.

Of course there are exceptions… Daniel Maddison is a young diplomat on his first posting abroad, and is already tired of the endless round of cocktail parties and golf. He is beginning to stray into the commercial centre of the city where he thinks he recognizes a young woman, Rachel, working in a large cloth warehouse owned by a wealthy Lebanese man. Among the other less conventional ex-pats, Isabel Redmond is tiring of her husband’s hobby of photographing naked black women, but she is wedded to the idea that, for better or worse, they are together till death they do part. The High Commissioner and his wife are both having affairs – with unexpected consequences; Father Seamus and Sister Mary Philomena are doing good work and being discreet about their unconventional relationship; an English judge, long in the tooth and prey to dementia, is loose in the bush; and an unattractive man selling timeshares is getting on everyone’s nerves. Somehow all these characters relate to each other in surprising, and often very funny or tragic ways.

THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN is written with an assured touch. It is rich in dialogue and her characters are finely and sensitively drawn. Sue Eckstein is to be congratulated on an excellent début. If you like Armistead Maupin, Graham Greene or Barbara Trapido, you will love this.


Recommend this site to a friend

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter