Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Mandoa Mandoa (Holtby) 88

Mandoa Mandoa! is Winifred Holtby's last novel, and really quite a different book to her other novels. It was written at a time of national disillusionment during the Depression when the Labour government had just collapsed. Personally, Holtby had begun to suffer from the kidney failure that would eventually kill her, and wrote the book whilst trying to recuperate in Monks Risborough. It's also partly a result of Holtby's tour of South Africa in 1926 where she became interested in the differences between the African and European ways of live and the notions of being "civilised".

Mandoa is a small state to the West of Abyssinia, predominantly savage, and relying on the slave trade. After a film company are temporarily stranded there, its leaders begin to think of modernisation. At the same time, in England, Maurice Durrant, believes that he can expand his business, Princes' Tours, into Mandoa and sends his brother out there to work. An airport and hotel are built and a wedding is planned to try to put Mandoa on the map.

It's a strange book which is very much a satire on Western industrialised society; whilst social commentary is certainly a key feature of Holtby's other novels, it is very different in this one. And somehow it didn't quite work for me - I'm not sure whether it was that I wasn't gripped by the plot or that I didn't really identify with the characters, or whether the issue that Holtby tackles is just hideously dated, but it really didn't do it for me.

It's just been published once by Virago in an original green edition, and the rather striking cover image is a picture of some Andalusian mountain ranges.

Whilst I'm on a Holtby title, I should briefly mentionPoor Caroline, another VMC which I read before embarking on this challenge:
And that's it for Holtby for this challenge! I'm sad that I didn't enjoy Mandoa Mandoa hugely as I loved South Riding, The crowded street, Anderby Wold and Poor Caroline.


  1. I have this and yet was under the impression that it was short stories - what do I know?! Hee. I enjoyed The Crowded Street (although I did think it became a little ridiculous) and have Anderby Wold to read.

    Another Virago author down! Well done.

  2. Hehe - might have worked better as a short story. Too long and not very enjoyable!

  3. There's also 'Remember, Remember', a VMC collection of Holtby's stories--the only Holtby I have, but unhelpfully there's no number on it.