Book review: Return to the Wild

Return to the Wild

James Hendry

Pan Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

This fabulous tongue-in-cheek page-turner is a jol of a book that is sure to have you laughing out loud.

It’s basically the story of Angus MacNaughton. This middle-aged man is miserably living and working in Cape Town, teaching music to a “cretinous child” at a massively pretentious private college.

The story then rewinds four years earlier to when he became the head ranger at Sasekile Private Game Reserve near Kruger. This ended with an oil mogul, a girlfriend and a killer hangover.

A warning letter from the college’s HR department did not dampen his spirits as he was off for a weekend in the Drakensberg to attend the wedding of his brother Hugh (String Bean).

During this time he is offered a job to take on the training of a bunch of game rangers at a new lodge that his brother is to manage at Sasekile. Angus jumps at the opportunity, returns to Cape Town to collect his measly possessions and walks away from his teaching and arrive at the familiar and yet modernised lodge.

The story then takes readers on an adventurous journey lurching from one calamity to another.

While the setting and characters are fictitious, everything is richly described, believable and amusing. Apart from the motley bunch of new ranger recruits, there are the lodge’s colourful staff who come with varying degrees of competence.

Hendry is an ex-game ranger, lodge manager and researcher and his detailed descriptions of walks, game drives and close encounters with wildlife in the bush are often nail-bitingly dramatic.

The story is also tinged with pathos as Angus grieves the loss of girlfriend Anna who had died mysteriously two years previously.

From bush law to a fire and building challenge, Hendry takes us to the predictable final catastrophe. I highly recommend this amusing, engaging and heartfelt read and will search out the MacNaughtons’ previous misadventures, A Year in the Wild and Back to the Bush.