Falling Night by Phil Clarke – Book Review

Falling Night by Phil Clarke – Book Review

Falling Night by Phil Clarke

Falling Night

I received a free copy of this book.
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Alan Swales is no hero and no saint. Bored by a successful, yet dull life in Britain with his girlfriend, Mandy, he decides to become an aid worker in Africa to experience adventure and acquire anecdotes to impress his mates.

Plunged into a civil war waged by vicious warlords and their child soldiers, Alan has to make unexpected choices about the direction of his life as well as his relationship with Mandy. As the situation deteriorates, he hears rumours of a hidden genocide, which leads him on a dangerous quest for evidence in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles.

Review by Clive

Let me cut to the chase; please seriously consider reading Falling Night. I will explain why.

The author Philip Clarke held voluntary and paid positions with Medicine Sans Frontiers and other organisations in Africa before becoming part of a team that investigated war crimes. He has used his extensive knowledge to write this fictional tale of an aid worker in a fictional African country during a civil war sometime in the 1990’s.

The story is written in the third person but almost exclusively the action follows the protagonist Alan Swales and everything is seen through his eyes. Alan is a relatively uncomplicated young man, looking for something different in his life and this naivety helps us to see everything clearly. As the plot develops he quickly learns that many things are not as he expected; some aid team members have motivations other than altruism, international bodies including the United Nations have their own agendas, many in the local population see western aid organisations as an excellent source of income and worst of all, multi-national companies (and possibly countries) are prepared to ignore atrocities and genocide to obtain minerals and wealth.

Undoubtedly Falling Night will cause you to think about and possibly change your views on charitable donations. Like most things in life, supporting those in distant countries less well off than ourselves cannot be simple and it probably never will be. As donors (individual or national) our choices are generally to do nothing or to follow our consciences to support through flawed systems.

While Alan is still coming to terms with these mental challenges he realises that he is committed to help the local people. In a side story Alan also witnesses the comfort and support that faith can have in challenging situations. I thought this issue was particularly well written by Phil Clarke, who is now a church elder.

As the national situation worsens Alan is drawn into a difficult situation which steels his determination to do all he can; leading to a tense and sometimes brutal ending.

I found Falling Night entertaining, educating, thought provoking, inspiring, challenging, tense, humorous and at times, tough to take. It is an undoubted five star read.

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Phil Clarke

Phil Clarke

Phil Clarke spent most of the 1990s in Africa, both as a humanitarian aid worker and as a tropical forest researcher. He then worked for nine years as an executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), before founding the war crimes investigation agency, Bloodhound.

Falling Night is Phil Clarke’s debut novel, based on actual experiences by the author or his acquaintances in the various wars that took place in Africa during the 1990s, but using fictional characters.

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