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The Last King Of Scotland (1999)

The Last King of Scotland (1999)
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Rating
3.75 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0375703314 (ISBN13: 9780375703317)
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English
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publisher
vintage
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The Last King Of Scotland (1999)
The Last King Of Scotland (1999)

About book: This was a fascinating work of historical fiction that takes the reader right into the terrifying and often times comically surreal actions of a brutal African dictator. The entire novel is a first person account told through the eyes of Nick Garrigan, Idi Amin's fictional personal physician. Amin is the most terrifying type of monster - the type that doens't play by rational rules and can become unhinged at a heartbeat's notice. Several absurd/comical/terrifying scenes come to mind:1. The fact that he used Israeli technology to create a platform underneath a swimmingpool where he raised himself up to the glorious applause of enraptured bystanders ala "The Little Mermaid." 2. An episode where Garrigan has to come to Amin's rescue upon hearing that he's dying. It turned out that he needed burping with the aid of a baseball bat because he was so grossly overweight and ate alot of gas inducing vegetables. 3. The often obscene and ridiculous telegrams (there was no internet back in the day) he sent to world leaders. Here's a standout telegram sent to Nixon after learning about Watergate:"My dear brother, it is quite true that you have enough problems on your plate and it is surprising that you have the zeal to add fresh ones. At the moment you are uncomfortablly sandwiched in that unfortunate affair, I ask Almighty God to help you solve your problems. I wish you a speedy recovery from this business. I am sure that any weak leader would have resigned or even committed SUICIDE after being subjected to so much harrassment because of this Watergate affair... Allow me to extend an invitation to you to come to rest in Uganda, so that you will be able to answer all questions with a healthy body and a clear conscience. You are not dammed. You needn't be doubtful about salvation.""I think it might be taken the wrong way", I said [Garrigan speaking], when he called me on the phone to ask what I thought." "But that fellow Nixon", he said. "Even prostitutes on the street are more respected than him. I dont care what you say, I will send it".Goodreads gives this book an average score of 3.69 which is grossly underrated. Much of the negative reviews I"ve read had gripes with the passive/acquiescent nature of the protagonist we follow. Go become the personal physican to a creepy dictator in a country you are unfamiliar to. See if you snub your nose at him and his policies in public, knowing you will be jailed for life and/or tortured to death if you speak up. Armchair heroes; it's easy to critique from a safe distance. I didn't really find the main character's actions to be as reprehensible as some. Maybe that's the reason for the low score on GR. P.S. The movie is an excellent representation of this book, starring the wonderful Forest Whitaker who won an Academy Award in 2006 for his depiction of Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin, and James McAvoy (Professor X in Xmen First Class and the Dune miniseries) as Dr. Garrigan.

When Scottish medical graduate Nicholas Garrigan accepted a Foreign Office posting to Uganda, he could not have imagined that he would end up as private physician to Idi Amin. The first shock of the heat in Africa makes it harder for him to adapt to his primitive surroundings, and he realises that he has walked into a change of government with all the associated turbulence. Amin, newly come to power, is the centre of rumour and praise, but this makes life no easier for Garrigan as a bush doctor.The ordinary folk coming to the compound for medical treatment from British, Cuban and Israeli doctors are mainly suffering from diseases, revolting internal or external parasites and infected wounds. Some go along to the medicine man as well, just to be sure. The rubbish gets burnt once a year and the only contact with the outside world is undependable post and the Israeli girl's mysterious two-way radio.Garrigan cannot be blamed when, after some time in the bush, he treats visiting Idi Amin for a minor injury and accepts the dictator's offer of a position in the comfortable capital. He gradually gets to know the self-styled Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular, who, in between disowning any member of his family who wears a wig and holding state banquets and press conferences, declares his sympathy for Scottish nationalist activists and offers to be the King of Scotland.Gradually the interest of the Foreign Office in Garrigan's new position becomes clear, and the doctor's eyes are opened to torture and murder. He knows that to oppose an African dictator is to die, so he continues to attend Amin, documenting his whimsical outbursts, falling for one of his wives, giving unheeded advice on the Israeli hostages at Entebbe airport; until his nerves break and he flees through the oppressed country - straight into the invading Tanzanian army.This novel won the Whitbread First Novel Award, and is remarkable for the reviews included. Journalist and politicians comment on how accurately Giles Foden has captured the manner and speech of the six-foot-six ex-boxer and soldier turned tyrant; they call this portrait a great achievement as well as his description of a time when the Cold War was being fought out in Africa by the opposing powers. Foden's second novel 'Ladysmith' deals with the besieged town during the Boer War and is based on letters from a relative.
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Reviews
Ian
While this is not 100% successful as a thriller, it works splendidly as a portrait of two men. Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor whose wanderlust is cured by his falling into becoming Idi Amin's personal physician. He is weak, but to accuse him of cowardice is not to understand the terror of living in a deteriorating society where the only safety is under the wing of a capricious dictator. The other portrait is Amin himself and Foden does a masterful job of finding the balance in this oversized character between the sinister monomaniac capable of torture, murder and perhaps even cannibalism, the charismatic leader and smooth-talking persuader and the grandiloquent, posturing buffoon that the British press scoffed at (from a distance). Shot through with a genuine understanding of tribal politics and an appreciation of the Ugandan landscape, this is a worthy and impressive novel.
Harriet
I was lucky enough to read this novel as part of a University module, on which Giles Foden lectured. (He compared this book to The Private Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg). Although I found this slow to get into, I absolutely loved it. It was really interesting and having Foden talk about it was even more so. (I think it was the only lecture all term that EVERYONE turned up to!) It opened my eyes to a period of very recent history that I know far too little about. The duality of Amin's character that Foden portrays is fascinating. I'm yet to see the film version (am afraid of the gore...) but I will get round to it one day... according to Foden, he's an extra in it once or twice!
Matt
The Last King of Scotland follows a British doctor wrapped up in the inner circle of Idi Amin in 1970's Uganda. The reader knows from the outset that the author's narrative is purportedly written "not for the purpose of exonerating myself, as some will no doubt believe, but to provide a genuine eyewitness account" of a murder spree that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.Moral complicity in the face of over-whelming evil - it's an ambitious theme to tackle, addressed very well in this novel.
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