The Leopard's Wifeis a novel of love in an impossible land. Smiles, a famous concert pianist and English public school boy, wants to make amends with his African-American schoolmaster, Lyman Andrew, who has buried himself in the war-torn jungle of the Congo. Smiles owes his success to the man he helped ruin and harbors a dark secret from the past and his brutal public school. But a bomb has exploded at a hotel in Kinshasa where Smiles was due to play at a peace and reconciliation concert and he is accidentally invited to his own funeral. Coffins are broken open by the Presidential Guard and when he is not in his, Smiles is suspected of being one of the rebels. He escapes on a ramshackle boat with the grand piano meant for his recital, which is now destined for his old schoolmaster, who lives near Kisangani, more than a thousand miles upriver, where the rebel forces are gathering and exiles are fleeing the war in the east. On the way he falls in love with Lola, the beautiful wife of Xavier, the head of the Presidential Guard and the Leopard of the title - even the leopard has a wife, says a Swahili proverb - and Smiles begins to appreciate anew the majesty of creation and the Congo as he brings Beethoven into the atrocity haunted forest. But all the time the Leopard is following . . .
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