Conjuring Maud

Written by Philip Danze
Review by Kelly Cannon

The lush, vibrant and often harsh landscape of colonial West Africa provides a stunning backdrop to this tale of offbeat characters and an unconventional love. David Unger, son of a prosperous physician turned destitute prospector, recalls the pivotal events of his life.  After attending military school, he serves as an ambulance driver for the British Army during the Zulu Rebellion.  From an Indian sergeant-major called Bapu (who will later be known as Gandhi), David learns the secret that enables him to make an astounding escape from a Zulu cave prison.  After the war, David travels to England to pursue a medical education.

Foremost in his devotion is the intrepid British explorer Maud King.  Sixteen years his senior, Maud captivates young David as no other woman ever will.  The two share more than just an affinity for the peoples, flora and fauna of West Africa.  They are soul mates in the deepest sense of the term.  While their age difference raises eyebrows amongst Maud’s fellow gentry in England, the true obstacle to their happiness is Maud’s passion for her work.

Danze fills this short tale with unforgettable secondary characters and subplots and wraps the whole package in a spare, elegant prose that reads easily and suits his subject matter well.