I just couldn't get into the story or the characters. I think part of the reason was the clogging sensory detail. Often you don't have enough--I've even heard an editor say that density of sensory detail is what separates the amateur from the professional, and such details can ground you in a story, and its setting--in this case post-Civil War Sierra Leone. But it seemed as if Forna had to walk us through the day of her characters in excruciating detail, burying us in minutia like this: Adrian pours Kai a tumbler of whisky. They open with the best of three. Kai wins easily and challenges Adrian again. Adrain, who has watched Kai's strategy closely, has worked out a thing or two, takes the fifth game and sixth as well. They play double colours. Blue and green: Kai. Red and yellow: Adrian. Adrian mixes the whisky with water to stretch it. Kai plays intensely. Adrian is grateful for the company. In the kitchen he finds a packet of chocolate cookies. The cookies are soft and dusty. The chocolate has melted, seeped into the stratum and hardened. They eat the cookies in place of supper, washing the taste away with whisky. The effect of the details, the jumps in point of views, even that much of it is told in the self-consciously literary present tense, I think all helped in distancing me from the characters and their emotions. And I didn't feel very grounded in the characters, was unsure even after 100 pages who or what was the focus of the novel. I couldn't even get a fix about whether Elias Cole was a native African or expatriot European. Both him and Adrian, who dominate the first 100 pages, felt flat to me. The narrative line up to then felt so meandering, so blah, such a slog to read--and the book is a fat 473 pages. I've read reviews that claim it picks up enormously in the second half--the problem is it lost me long before that.