The Last King of Scotland, by Giles Foden

Written as a memoir, this is the story of the fictional Nick Garrigan, Idi Amin's private doctor, who served the dictator during the final stages of his presidency.

I'd not seen the film so had no real idea what the book would be like, but assumed it would be mostly about Amin, as seen through someone who had privileged access. Well some of it was, but in fact most of the story didn't particularly focus on Amin: in fact the first 3 CDs are taken up with Garrigan's move to and initial work in Uganda, before he has anything to do with Amin. And he's not actually with Amin much, so it's more about the effects of Amin on the country, rather than a personal glimpse of life inside the palace(s).

What was a bit odd about this book was that you Garrigan didn't come across as particularly likeable: he's a bit naive, something of a coward, and a little self-serving in his writing. This is presumably intentional on the part of the author, and perhaps it's more real this way (in that you could quite well believe that someone might be like this), but the effect it had on me was to find the whole thing a bit distasteful - I wasn't endeared to Garrigan or the book.

Something else that I found annoying (and I don't think this was so forgiveable) was that there were a lot of coincidental "chance meetings" - e.g. a friendly boy that Garrigan meets when he first arrives in Uganda turns up later on in the book as a child soldier, and is killed in front of Garrigan's eyes, just as Garrigan happens to have walked out of the jungle into some random town. There were a few cases like this: you got the feeling that there must only have been about 100 people in the whole of the country, in order for Garrigan to keep bumping into them again and again.

I don't think I learned as much as I'd been expecting about that period in Uganda, although the stuff about the operation on Entebbe was new to me so was interesting.

On the whole though, a bit of a disappointment. I'd watch the film, would be interesting to see how that compares.

Completed : 31-Aug-2012 (audiobook)

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