Doubleday  | 10 May 2022 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

This story was set in Tanzania in 1964 surrounding an A-list actress, Katie Barstow, and her entourage visiting the Serengeti for her honeymoon. The cast of characters was huge and consisted of thirteen members, including Katie's brother and his pregnant wife, a few of Katie's working colleagues and the local Tanzanian guides. 

The lush setting of the wilderness and the plains of Serengeti National Park was a great armchair experience as the reader followed the group of their safari adventure; from watching the giraffes eating leaves from the acacia trees to seeing great swarms of wildebeests crossing the Mara River. It was a joy ride until the group encountered a team of Russian mercenaries midway through their adventure and held them hostage. In the mid of chaos, a few of the guides died under their gunshots and the rest of the entourage was separated and kidnapped by their respective captors. Katie may have the world at her feet, but at that moment she wished for nothing but she and her entourage would come out of the Serengeti alive. 

Chris Bohjalian is a good storyteller. He managed to capture the scenes vividly and his characters are flesh-out and well-developed. However, with a huge cast and the introduction and the flashbacks of some of these characters, I found it was a slowburn and the flow of the story didn't go quite as smoothly as I expected. The thrill and the excitement of the present time was often paused at the end of a chapter and begins with the introductions of a character and/or his or her backstory before it switched back to the present time, again. I understand this was a style intentionally written by the author, but it disrupted the flow especially when the reader expected something to happen at the present time. 

Also, there are too many topics addressed here - fame, race, cultural differences, some politics in general as well as the main story. While I enjoyed reading them at some point, I felt the story got convoluted and it didn't help with the multiple narratives and the switching of the present and the past as well. Don't get me wrong, the author writing was great but I felt the execution could've been better for a smoother read (or perhaps it's only me). Nevertheless, The Lioness was very much a good character-driven story and I'd recommend it if you like reading a safari adventure. 
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10 Responses
  1. Kay Says:

    Melody, I have this one my hold list at the library and am glad to read your thoughts about it. I was intrigued by the safari setting. Seems like lately I've been reading a number of books with 'interesting' settings. It sounds like your experience was good, but maybe the author tried to do too many things in one book? Anyway, I'll hope to read it in upcoming weeks and will see how it goes for me.

  2. Harvee Says:

    I enjoyed reading this book for the sheer adventure and safari danger of it.

  3. Melody, recently, I haven't enjoyed his newer fiction as much as his older books. This one had far too many characters and although I liked the setting a lot, it wasn't stellar IMO.

  4. Lark Says:

    I can see where all that back story would really slow the narrative. It's the setting that interests me the most about this one, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy the actual story.

  5. Melody Says:

    Kay - Too many narratives and issues in this book so I'd had a hard time keeping my attention but I've to say the safari setting was a draw. I'll be curious of your thoughts, Kay.

  6. Melody Says:

    Harvee - I've rarely come across a book with a safari setting so this element was a huge draw to me.

  7. Melody Says:

    Diane - I've to admit I haven't read all of his books but I think I did enjoy one or two of his earlier books. Hope his next book will be better.

  8. Melody Says:

    Lark - I think what bothered me most is the "cliffhangers" at the end of most chapters. It was exciting to read the thrilling part until the next chapter begins with another character's narrative and his/her introduction and flashbacks. I think I was more invested in the actions than anything. :P

  9. Iliana Says:

    I really like how this author seems to explore such different settings/themes in his books. I'm glad you pointed out that it was a bit hard to follow with the time jumps because I notice that typically when there is a lot of that in a book, I prefer a physical copy over a digital one.

  10. Melody Says:

    Iliana - Yes, the author does seem to explore different settings/themes in his books, doesn't he? And I like that about an author. This book would definitely make it an easier read in physical format than a digital one.

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