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Blue Dahlia, Black Gold: A Journey into Angola, by Daniel Metcalfe, Hutchinson, RRP£20, 368 pages
Angola has the fastest-growing economy in Africa, with vast reserves of oil that are only just beginning to be exploited. Luanda, its capital, has been rated the world’s second-most expensive city. Yet the nation’s vast wealth is held by a tiny minority and often siphoned off into international bank accounts, so the majority of Angolans live in abject poverty.
It is into this extraordinary, roiling environment that Daniel Metcalfe embarks after a crash course in Portuguese (the widely spoken colonial language). The nation’s 27-year-long civil war may have ended in 2002 but has left much of the countryside scattered with landmines.
Metcalfe’s first book was the well-received Out of Steppe (2009), in which he journeys through Central Asia. This time he again plunges in energetically to uncover the real Angola beyond the fume-shrouded, chaotic capital.
An invigorating, eye-opening and fascinating study of a booming but dysfunctional country that embodies the new Africa.