“We lose ourselves in books, we find ourselves there too."

Well hello again everyone,

I’ve been so far behind on book reviews and blog posts that I think I’m nearly up together again…for now! So what have I got for you today?

Well remember Woman in the Mists? A book written by Farley Mowat about Dian Fossey. Well this book is also about Dian Fossey but is written by one of her students, John Fowler, who was up at Camp Karisoke with her and was under her tutorship.

“What is it like?…what was Dian like? The answer is a long one. Karisoke was the answer to my dreams of life and work in Africa. It was also a brutal dose of disenchantment…with gorillas on the brink of extinction and its impossible headmistress at the centre of it all.”

John stars by telling us about his dreams of working in Africa and how the opportunity to work with Dian first arose and his first correspondence which his new campmate.

But he soon realised that the beauty and marvel of studying gorillas in Central Africa’s mountainous forests hides some harsher realities that lie ten thousand feet up in the Virunga Mountains.

However, on occasion, Dian will leave Karisoke, much to her displeasure due to external pressures needing her below the clouds and so brings in more new students to help her keep a grasp on her mountain home.

“It became increasingly apparent that she feared nothing more than losing control of Karisoke…Dian couldn’t share the stage, let alone relinquish it.”

He ends up rehabilitating an orphaned baby gorilla and taking her under his wing until she could be released back to the wild. He also tells us of witnessing gorilla bodies strewn across the forest floors by poachers and the incredibly moving gorilla graveyard that Dian had made for her fallen family…a graveyard where she too would be buried.

“Even extreme grief may ultimately vent itself in violence – but more generally takes the form of apathy.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

This is a book which swings from aspirations and hopes and dreams and excitement to disappointment and fear and patience.

“I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Woman in the Mists was written as though Mowat idolised Dian Fossey and barely a bad word said about her. In A Forest in the Clouds however, it’s very much an honest retelling from an insiders point of view of the camp and of Fossey herself. This book brings you the highs and lows and makes you feel every inch of those as well.

“We live as we dream – alone. While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Dian Fossey’s erratic nature and suspicious nature becomes more apparent throughout the book and her temper seems to vary from calm to volcanic in milliseconds. But it sounds like anyone who worked with her, knew she was difficult to work with. But in a way, I can understand why. She was let down so many times, first her parents then her exes then the Rwandan government and then some of her students too that she needed to escape but also know who to trust. There was a lot of poaching at the time and Dian had a reputation of torturing poachers to teach them a lesson. She was a loner and didn’t have many friends by the sounds of it and being ten thousand feet up in the air can make for a lonesome existence but at least she knew she could trust herself.

“She may just need a friend.”

Not much is speculated about her murder which is probably apt because John wasn’t there at the time but also it still remains unsolved with many now speculating that it was the government responsible. Instead it focuses on the time that John Fowler visited afterwards and his emotions at visiting her beloved gorilla graveyard and seeing her there with her family.

Regardless of anything, Dian Fossey remains one of my all time heroes and in my lifetime I WILL travel to Rwanda and climb the Virunga Mountains and see Camp Karisoke for myself and hopefully some descendants of Dian’s gorilla family too. She was an incredible woman whose circumstances changed her perspective on life.

“In print, as in life, she was withdrawn from people, hiding among gorillas in a fantasy world of her own design.”

I am so sorry about the late reply, I went through a stage of struggling to find the motivation to write! I still have one more review to write until I’m all caught up (for now at least)!

You can find this book on Amazon

Until next time,

Keep reading,

D x

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