At the moment of writing these notes the country of Eritrea is in the spotlight, for a positive reason. One of the cyclists in the Tour de France has conquered the jersey for the best climber. His name is Daniel Teklehaimanot. The road to Paris is still long, but his  achievements are clear already.

I had just finished reading the written search of Hannah Pool, preserved in her book My Father’s Daughter. She is in search of her relatives in Eritrea. When Azieb was about 6 months old she was adopted by a British couple, based in Khartoum (Sudan). Her father is a specialist in Eritrean affairs. When Hannah (her name added to Azieb) is 4 and a half years old her mother dies. Her father decides to return to the United Kingdom. Hannah is taken to relatives in Norway, but in the end she is united with her father who remarries and has two more children. Hannah is settled in the United Kingdom, while being aware of bits of  her background.

One day she receives a letter from Eritrea, a letter written by a relative. Hannah keeps the letter for many years, without taking any action. When Hannah is about 30 years old she gets into contact with an Eritrean cousin, who lives in London. And now her search gets under way. One of the strongest features of this search by Hannah is the way she reflects on her attitude, her fears, her expectations, her disappointments, her sensitivities, her meetings with relatives.

She meets her cousin Gaim, who tells her she looks like her mother and he tells as well that her father is still alive. She now has a ‘ daddy’ (her adoption daddy) and a ‘father’ (her biological father). This is cause for divided loyalties, after the meeting  with Gaim it is hard for her to inform her daddy.

Hannah makes preparations for a journey to Eritrea, already during her visits to the embassy and on her flight to Asmara she is confronted with her Eritrean background and her inability to speak the language. It causes her to rethink her roots, her sense of home, her sense of identity.

Her stay in Eritrea is like a rollercoaster, a visit to the orphanage where she stayed at a very early age, her meetings with her father and other relatives, her search for more information on her mother, the bustrips, the walks, the visit to her birthplace and birthbed, the meetings with Eritreans who have returned from abroad and who want to stay in their country of origin, she realizes her missed Eritrean childhood, her return to London and the floods of tears.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written book.

Hannah Pool – My Father’s Daughter – 2005

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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