Thursday 1 June 2017

Book Review: Congo Dawn

Melbourne secretary Anna Emerson's life is turned upside down when a stranger hands her a plane ticket to the Congo. The newly independent country is in turmoil, Simba rebels are on the move - but the invitation holds a precious clue to the whereabouts of her estranged father.
Dan Miller signs up as a mercenary commando to fight the Communist uprising. He supports the cause, but that's not really why he's there. A devastating tragedy has taken all meaning from his life, and he's got nothing left to lose. 
In the Congo, Dan's belief in the war begins to crumble. 
Anna heads deeper into danger as she travels from a grand colonial mansion to an abandoned hotel on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, to a leprosy mission in the jungle and beyond. Their two paths collide through circumstances more extraordinary than fate.
Inspired by real events, Congo Dawn combines epic drama with an intimate journey into the heart of a fractured family, as two characters, in search of people they lost, at last find a way to come home. It is a landmark novel about good and evil, and the inexhaustible power of love.


This story begins in Melbourne, Australia, in 1964, with a young woman, Anna, who seems to have a rather ordinary life. The story soon moves to the Belgian Congo, Africa, where Anna finds herself in anything but an ordinary life. As she seeks to reunite with Karl Emerson, the father she hasn’t seen since she was a child, she becomes embroiled in the political, violent and terrifying life where unrest and civil war, poverty, oppression, and leprosy are part of the every day.  Anna’s character is of a brave, yet vulnerable woman, who discovers parts of herself she’d never anticipated as she meets and befriends the mysterious Eliza, then a compassionate and selfless missionary couple who work with lepers. She faces her deepest self and greatest need when confronted with the most extreme danger and fear.   

Anna’s journey unfolds between episodes of another story, that of Dan, a divorcee, safari leader from South Africa, who has been invited to join a Commando unit in the Congo to help the National Army fight against communist rebels. Dan’s past is evoked as he moves back to places he’s known in his younger days. While he is haunted by his memories and pain, he does not turn back from the mission he has committed himself to. He is a natural leader, with WW11 experience. His understanding of the men in his unit, the effects of war on individuals on both sides of a conflict, his ability to make life and death choices, and his integrity make him a very powerful and appealing character.

Some of the atrocities Dan and his special force unit face are horrifying and hard to read, yet there is a realism and depth to the writing which gives balance and perspective to these events in the history of the Congo and make it compelling reading.  

Although this is not a Christian novel and there is no apparent bias in the writing towards or against Christianity, some of the characters are portrayed as deeply spiritual, committed missionaries, whose dedication and faith are inspiring.  

The connection, past or potential, between the two main characters, Anna and Dan, is unclear until three quarters of the way through the book, which was a little frustrating but also intriguing. It is a love story but not a romance, so not for those who are looking for a light fantasy or feel good escape from reality. Quite the opposite. It seems very thoroughly researched and based on real events which demand the reader’s reflection and consideration. This is a story that I believe would be every bit as compelling for a male reader as a female and I’d highly recommend it.  

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP.  Next of Kin was released in 2015 by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released in 2016. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.


  1. Thanks Carol for that fascinating review. Katherine has certainly ventured into unknown territory for most of us. It sounds like a very compelling read.

  2. I did find it compelling Rita, disturbingly so in some parts, but very real, so a learning experience as well as a good read.


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