Dr. Livingstone, I presume? Petina Gappah’s second novel and her fourth book in ten years is set in Africa in 1873. It fictionalises the events following the death of explorer Dr David Livingstone after his failed attempt to find the source of the Nile, inspired by Herodotus. The novel imagines the journey taken by a dozen or so of Livingstone’s faithful servants and companions as they carry his corpse across Africa for nine months. His heart is buried deep in the African continent; his body is preserved in alcohol. The funeral caravan seeks the port of Zanzibar, so that his remains can be returned to Britain by sea for burial – but their journey is fraught with incident and betrayal, peril and death. Narrated by Halima – Livingstone’s chef – and three of his servants and disciples – Jacob, Chuma, and Susi – the novel tells a pre-colonial story that is largely idealistic and Christian from a post-colonial perspective. It is about slavery, loyalty, organised religion, and superstitious belief; women in a world dominated by men and their worldview; and the moment before the Europeans arrived in Africa and brutally carved up the continent. 150 years on, their story feels romantic, improbable, heroic and ultimately misguided; it has the power of myth, yet feels utterly contemporary.