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“Borderlines”

Synopsis

British lawyer Paula Shackleton is mourning a lost love when a small man in a lemon-coloured suit accosts her over breakfast in a Boston hotel. When he’s not advising US companies on their shady foreign investments, Winston Peabody represents the African country of North Darrar, embroiled in a border arbitration case with its giant neighbour. Winston needs help with the hearings in The Hague, Paula needs to forget the past.

She flies to the highland capital determined to lose herself in work, but soon discovers that even jobs taken with the purest of intentions - making money - can involve squirm-inducing moral compromise. Taking testimony in scorching refugee camps, delving into North Darrar’s colonial past -- all while fending off approaches from the CIA man in town -- she becomes increasingly uneasy about her role as government attack dog. Budding friendships with Dawit, a scarred former rebel, and George, an idealistic young doctor, whittle away at her pose of sardonic indifference until, to her own surprise, Paula finds herself taking a step no decent lawyer should ever contemplate.

Michela Wrong has been writing about Africa for two decades. In this taut legal thriller, rich with the Horn of Africa’s colours, aromas and sensations, she probes the motives underlying Western engagement with the continent, questioning the value of universal justice and exploring how history itself is forged. But her first novel is above all the story of a distraught young woman’s anguished quest for redemption.