Darkest England

Christopher Hope, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (283p) ISBN 978-0-393-04040-1
South African poet and novelist Hope (Serenity House), whose previous works have been ironic analyses of contemporary life both in his native land and in his adoptive England, segues brilliantly into satire here. The present-day explorations of a South African Bushman called David Mungo Booi are chronicled in his purported diary, a record of his perilous, hilarious journey to the remote island of Britain. Sponsored by his tribe's Society for Promoting the Discovery of Interior Britain, Booi's mission is to explore the isle, learn something of the inhabitants (purported to be ""a savage people who made constant war against their neighbors''), and solicit the aid of Her Majesty against the Boers and others who would restrict their liberties, just as his people did from her great-grandmother, ""Old Auntie with Diamonds in Her Hair."" He bravely travels through uncharted, hostile modern England ""with just the right amount of ignorance,"" as his posthumous editor puts it, encountering natives quite fallen off from the days of Empire: John Farebrother, a grounded ""flying Bishop""; Lord Goodlove, a hunting and shooting type with his own endangered species preserve; and Mr. Conbrio, a member of the ""Mother of All Parliaments."" Sometimes Hope pushes Booi's Candidian naivete a bit far in the face of these grotesque caricatures, but he recovers his humor with imaginative inversions of English stereotypes and current events. When Booi finally meets HMQ, the encounter is the funniest spoof of the endangered royal species since Sue Townsend's The Queen and I. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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