It is 1935 and Mussolini’s army is in Ethiopia ready to capture the country. Carlo Fucelli’s troops are fighting a battle they thought they would easily win. However, the natives, led by Kidane are giving their enemy a run for their money. Especially vigilant and brave are Aster, Kidane’s wife, and Hirut, Aster’s female servant. When Aster and Hirut are captured and thrown into an Italian prison, Ettore Navarro, Fucelli’s official photographer, finds he is drawn to Hirut and her suffering.
Short-listed this year for The Man Booker Prize, The Shadow King is an historical novel which describes a time and place I knew nothing about. Mengiste does a fine job of describing Ethiopia and its people, although it is a bit confusing at first and takes a while to become immersed in the war and the characters.