The River and the Book is about a girl called Simbala. Their village relies on two things, the river, and the book. When she turns 15, she becomes one in a great line of “keepers”, who read the book and tell people what to do in important matters.
But the book predicts change. Cotton farmers have started to farm up the river, and the villages water supply is being poisoned, and reduced. The bi-yearly floods do not come, and the village people start to starve.
Then a foreigner arrives. She aims to write a book about the “river people”, and raise awareness to what. But when she leaves, she takes the sacred book with her.
Simbala, who used to be one of the most important people in her village, now is a nobody. Without the book, she can’t give people advice, and so she is now not needed. So she heads to the city, to get the book back.
The River and the Book is told from her point of view. In fact, Alison Croggon (the author) writes it as if Simbala is writing the book. She does this very well, along with many other things. Though, as I said earlier, it has its downfalls.
The book is a little hard to follow. For instance, Simbala’s cat, Mely, talks in the book (most likely imagined by Simbala). As cats don’t usually talk, you only properly realise that the thing that tells Simbala how bad/good her book is is a cat when you are near the end.
The River and the Book is also endorsed by Amnesty International, and it certainly deserves it. It touches on poverty, 3rd world violence, privacy and destruction of culture that is the same throughout the world.