The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. Published 2008. This is the local library book group read for June.
Fiona Sweeney a librarian from London sets off to Kenya with the idea to bring English written books to the natives of small desert settlements. Although a good idea it is not supported by all concerned, yet it is much needed and welcomed by the settlers. Although Fi’s, motives are good she not understand the kind of life these people live and it is not long before the Camel Bookmobile library runs into problems.
The idea of the Camel bookmobile challenges our own ideas about what is correct or right for one group of people may not be right for another. The people of the Mididima community struggle with differing opinions about the bookmobile and see the books and Fi as an intrusion into their way of life, putting unwanted and often unfulfilled ideas into the minds of the people. Yet, others see the bookmobile as a good thing and see as a way to allow the people to see outside their community. However, one day as Fi and the camel bookmobile arrive at the place where the settlement of Mididima should have been, they find it gone. The library books are neatly stacked under the only tree and a note is left for Fi by the only teacher of the village, who too had packed up his belongings and moved onward with the community.
The book is a reasonably quick read, however it left me with a feeling of right and wrong. Was the bookmobile an unnecessary intrusion into the simple of lives of the people of the Kenyan desert? Did these people really need to know how to read English for instance? Could they have been a better way to have brought books to these people? Books that may have been more helpful to them and their way of life.
After finding the place deserted, Fi is left with no option, but to move on to the next settlement on the library’s list. There is also a great sense of hope to the book, there is no real end, but we are left to ponder about the outcome of any further contacts the bookmobile would have in the future.