Author: Adam De Collibus
“Completely separated from the rest of the world, surrounded by dunes so numerous that the whole world appeared a desert planet, a pleasantly inescapable one. He wanted to know what it was like to hear silence. Real silence. To feel nothing but his own heartbeat and the scorching sun on his face. To be king of a boundless kingdom ruled and inhabited only by him.”
Caravan is a piece of historical fiction by author Adam De Collibus. Set just after World War 1, its protagonist, William, is a photographer who, fed up of making money by taking baby portraits, decides to take a chance on a newspaper, The London Dove, on a photography mission in the Middle East. William is asked to travel to Morocco and cross the Sahara Desert to Yemen travelling with a caravan, and to take as many pictures as he can along the way. Thrilled with the prospect of travel and the money it will provide, William thinks he has a sure thing and will be able to use the money to start a fresh in London again. But, as he begins his journey, he soon realises that he may actually prefer the mysterious allure of the caravan to the security of London after all.
If I’m being honest, it took me a little while to work out what a Caravan was (not in the modern sense of the term), but once I had got on board with that – and after some Googling – that definitely helped with my understanding of the premise. There are a plethora of interesting characters in the novel and once William was on his way to Yemen, the turn of events are anything but predictable. I certainly didn’t know where the author was taking us with this story, but its unpredictability made it hard to put down.
I would have liked the novel’s time setting to be a little more cemented in the book. There are vague mentions of the war, so you can gather it’s the beginning of the 20th century, but for me, it would have been nice for this to be emphasised a little more, even with a date at the beginning of the first chapter.
As a protagonist, William was endearing, and what I particularly liked about him was how much he pondered the world around him. Never would he just let something pass him by, and whether this was a habit of the author, or a fabricated character trait, it was intriguing nonetheless. I also liked the reoccurring chess game which was peppered throughout the plot; it may seem like an insignificant part of the story, but I really felt like William and Hans’ chess rivalry helped give them more humanity, and as characters, made them more plausible.
The ending was good, although it didn’t quite go how I anticipated (whether this is a good or bad, I’m not really sure). The action definitely picked up towards the end of the novel, so I found myself especially gripped reading the last 50 pages or so, but if anything, I think the author could have elaborated further and taken advantage of the newly-found fast pace.
All in all the novel was enjoyable, and definitely different to anything I’ve read recently. The author has a talent for writing, particularly when it came to describing the beautiful places featured in the novel, this alone is a good enough reason to read this book, but its unpredictable plot and charming characters are also a reason you’ll be hooked on it too.