Milele Safari
by Jan Hawke


In Swahili a safari literally means a long journey and so this story is one of journeys of various types. The principal path is Sophie Taylor's and starts when her fiancé Tom Harrison and his friend and co-worker Dr. Teresa Olatunde, are murdered in a refugee camp for people fleeing tribal genocide in fictional Zyanda. Back in Zambia, suffering from malaria and newly pregnant Sophie, on hearing the awful news, collapses and falls into a coma, losing her baby. When she regains consciousness she enters a spiralling breakdown because of the unbearable losses and, needing someone to blame for her lover's death, mistakenly assigns this to Teresa, of whom she has always felt jealous because of her close sibling-style relationship with Tom.
Repatriated to England, Sophie slowly regains her health and a better perspective of what happened and why, in part thanks to Youssef Jettou, a former field surgeon working with the same aid agency as her, who had saved Teresa's life when she was found close to death as a war orphan in the late 1960's in Biafra. His colleagues Henryk Zimmerman (who first found Teresa, clutching her dead four year old brother) and his wife Helga, became Teresa's godparents and sponsored her education in South Africa and later medical training. The Zimmermans had also been in the refugee camp and witnessed the killings of another agency operative, Aaron Umbatu and, by one of his own men, the Zyandan priest who brutally hacked Teresa to death with a machete. The Zimmermans and Youssef's account of Teresa's path to such a macabre fate eventually help Sophie deal with her experience of sub-Saharan Africa's harsher realities of ignorance, disease, poverty, drought, famine, war and injustice. Recovering her own health leads her down a new path as she also trains as a GP and psychotherapist, specialising in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder cases, eventually deciding to return to work in Africa at the newly opened Teresa Olatunde Community Hospital in Zyanda, working amongst refugee and traditional communities in a new generation UN-sponsored socio-economic project.
Before she takes up her new post, her sister Claire, a former resident of Zimbabwe, but now running an upmarket tour agency out of Kenya, comes up with a strangely apt way of easing her little sister back into working life in Africa. Sophie therefore takes up the temporary position of tour escort and medical consultant for a party of Hollywood movie folk who are on a pre-filming jolly, before starting production of a blockbuster remake of The African Queen. As they travel through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, Sophie finds herself falling in love with 'her' old Africa again; the animals, evocative landscapes and simple everyday lives, finding fuller acceptance of her own tragic experiences on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe as she meets professional game hunter-guide Harry Burton and his 'sort-of-nephew' veterinarian Luey Ogilvy. Both men have had struggles with their own ambivalent experience of modern Africa and its politics, as the tour group of Brits and Americans bring out the more naive western cultural perceptions on colonial history, conservation and economic tourism.
When he finds himself completely enamoured of Sophie, Luey changes his plans to leave for Europe and instead follows Sophie to the Mgakera River Enclave, in the border country of Zyanda and Tanzania where they meet Zyandans Verity Beleshona and David Mukuga, both of whom had witnessed Tom's and Teresa's deaths in Umbeke. Both Zyandans need help in confronting their terrible memories and dealing with bereavement as a result of the genocide, despite being on different sides. Together the four people forge tight bonds of friendship and move forward to guide Mgakera into a saner, fulfilling future, where mistakes and history are learned from, and where community values and needs come first.

As the main storyline weaves its way through the various characters' reminiscences, apocryphal tales, anecdotes and quirky folklore, an Africa emerges that underscores the mysteries, romance and anathema of a continent that can never seem to shake its sometimes dark and ugly past and precariously balanced future in the modern world.

Buy the Books
at all good online bookstores
by ISBN in the High Street






5 Star Reviews (from

by Paul Walsh (Eire)

Not my typical sort of book to be honest but I'm glad I read outside my comfort zone. Story is beautifully crafted and drew me right in. The main characters are well drawn and in many ways you can feel what they are feeling giving a sense of authenticity to the story. For a story with such a dark central fulcrum it is actually quite uplifting I also felt like I was learning something about the character of Africa as I was reading. Some very interesting and informative footnotes throughout really help as well.
All in all a well written book and hopefully the first of many.

by Ted Farrar (UK)

Sophie Taylor has returned to Africa after a long absence, and is forced to confront the tragedies of her past – the murder of her fiancé and loss of her unborn daughter. Milele Safari records this spiritual journey of acceptance, healing and romance against the stunning, often savage and always unpredictable backdrop of Africa.
It is hard to believe this is Jan Hawke’s first novel – she is such an accomplished writer that you can almost taste the dust of Africa in your throat, picture the characters as if you’re sitting beside them around the campfire. The story takes you back and forth from past to present and back again, unflinchingly exploring the essence of Africa through Sophie’s experiences. Ultimately it’s a romance, but this is no Mills & Boon.
I'm generally very hard to please when it comes to reviews. First of all I look for writing talent, then style, and this all has to be carried by an engrossing and original storyline. In fact I've never awarded more than three stars before. But Ms Hawke deserves no less than five stars because not only is Milele Safari an engaging and often funny story told with effortless skill - she also seemingly accomplishes the impossible by revealing the soul of Africa, warts and all.
Note to Author: I bow to you, oh Great One!

by Mary Patterson Thornburg (USA)

Dr. Sophie Taylor, a British physician and psychotherapist, has taken a job at a UN-sponsored refugee community in central Africa. Before reporting for work, as a favor to her sister she accompanies a group of filmmakers on a guided safari. During this period she meets an attractive wildlife veterinarian who finds her equally attractive. The couple begins a serious love affair, the veterinarian applies for and gets employment with Sophie's employer, and before long the two become involved in an emergency rescue effort following an earthquake, complicated by a search for a group of elephant poachers.
This, in essence, is the plot of the story presented in "Milele Safari." Yet the story is much deeper and very much darker than such a plot summary suggests.
For this is not Sophie's first trip to Africa, nor her first love affair. And – like the areas she visits now, and like the characters she meets – she is haunted by the tragic events of her earlier experience, which coincided with a widespread genocide.
"Milele Safari" is not in any sense an easy read. It moves steadily from present to past to present again, from the journals and memories of one character to those of another and another. It circles, always, around inexplicable hatreds and unremitting guilt. It does not shrink at shocking truths. At the same time, it never gives way to despair. If you are looking for a conventional thriller, or for a simplistic inspirational "message," you won't find either here.
What you WILL find is a hard look at the complexities of the human spirit, told in terms of modern Africa but pertinent to what has happened and is happening everywhere else in the world. And you'll find characters, situations, and places that will stay with you for a long time.

by Kelly (USA)

This is not an easy quick beach read - far from it. However, it is an excellent read. If you have even the slightest interest or curiosity about the complexity of Africa – this is your journey to understanding.
Before writing my review, I read the others - both here on the Kindle edition that I have and on the hard copy - for some reason Amazon has them separated even though they are the same book. The other reviews do a very good job, better than I could, of explaining the detail of the plot and substance of the story. I'll go in a different direction.
This is one of the tightest written books I have read in a very long time. The prose is excellent, the character development equally excellent. One of my pet peeves is when characters are built in one direction then act completely out of character - that never happened, not once, not even with Lyssa the leopard who we get the opportunity to see the world to include tourists from her unique perspective.
I mention Lyssa the leopard because not only does the author give us a rather believable view from the leopards perspective, in doing so she gives us one more angel on the rather amazing story world she develops throughout the book. As with the character development the story world is spot on. You will feel you are there.
This is a book of hope in an often hopeless land. The stories of monstrosities are told with the same excellence and genuineness that supports the characters and story world. I didn't find a single misstep. That is quite an accomplishment for a first time author with such a massive undertaking - this is not a small book or a lightweight topic.
An Eternal Journey is obviously a heart-felt undertaking by the author about a topic that has touched her deeply. If she writes on other topics equally as well, she will become a force in the literary world. I for one hope she continues to exercise her insightful understanding through her keen writing skills.

by Clare Curran (UK)

This book isn't my usual sort of read, and given the horror behind the subject matter, I wasn't sure what to expect.
I have to say, that it is well written and incredibly well researched. The book doesn't shy away from the horror of genocide, but neither does it revel in the gory details of what humans can be capable of at their worst.
Through a series of journal-like entries from several different perspectives, we follow a set of characters through different stages of their lives, and see how one horrible event can change their lives forever.
The characters were well developed and well rounded, and as a reader you were able to empathise with both the victims of and the perpetrators of the situation in Hawke's fictional Zyanda.
I highly recommend this book, it was touching and incredibly well written.

by Ronesa (USA)

If you are looking for a book filled with fast-paced action and adventure on an African safari, this is not the book for you. Although it has all of those things, and beautifully written descriptions of the land and wildlife of Africa, the book is more more thought-provoking. It is a story about the tragedies individuals and nations have suffered. It is a story of genocide, personal loss, despair, grief, acceptance, and forgiveness. You learn about the killing of a nun and Brit from the perspective of all parties involved and how this tragic event affected each of them and those they came in contact with. Don't expect to read this book quickly; it is one you need to contemplate as you go.

by Nancy Bell (USA)

While not an easy read, this is well worth the emotional gamut the reader experiences. Gritty and sometimes brutal in its reality, it is also a story of hope and survival.

back to publications page