- Title: Dis’ Taste
- Author: Caven Tootell
- # of Pages: 307
- Released: October 27, 2017
- Genre(s): Historical fiction
- My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
*I was given my copy of the book by the author but all opinions are my own.
Set in pre-WWI Congo Free State, the story follows two Belgian Colonial officers, Philippe and Augustine and the latter’s wife, Clementine. The Congo Free State was established as a private fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium, to extract as much wealth as could possibly be achieved with no care on the effect to the native people. Estimates point to deaths of over ten million Congolese during Belgian rule.Augustine brings his new wife into country; to bring a piece of normality into their lives, the two men strike up a friendly challenge to host each other to lavish dinner parties using exotic local foods and recipes. The story then follows the three characters, their interactions with each other, other Europeans, Africans, and the oppressive state sponsored rape of the country.The violent environment creates a surreal world where each person attempts to forge a new life for themselves, but eventually descend into an ever darkening world of lost dreams, disillusionment and hatred. At the start, Philippe is brutally and savagely maimed in an attack. The aftermath causes him to deal with an ever increasing post-traumatic shock, whilst managing a company rubber plantation, using opium as a crutch.All characters strive to build themselves an elusive, better life, but the oppressiveness of the country overtakes their lives. Philippe questions the ethics of what they are doing, whilst working his plantation with local assistants and an indigenous woman. Augustine suffers issues with the nature of his work which causes him to lose his sense of proportion, humanity and ability to relate to Clementine, who finds comfort with Philippe.The friendship between each person becomes more and more strained with the cycle of substance abuse, distrust and tensions over their relationships, eventually leading to the outside horror visiting their lives.
This book took me awhile to get into but I loved it by the end. The ending is, actually, why I gave this book five stars.
Caven Tootell is a wonderful writer. I found his descriptions of characters to be unique and insightful without being complicated. Tootell also used the Congo and it’s features to show his readersdifferent moods.
Dis’ Taste deminstrates multiple common views black and white people had for each other in post W.W.I Africa. I am so happy that there has been so much progress in human rights over the last hundred years but we still have a long way to go.
I would encourage all matchure individuals, reader or not, to read this book.