Lynnda Wardle reviews An Ounce of Practice in the Glasgow Review of Books

An Ounce of Practice by Leo Zeilig is a hugely enjoyable, ambitious bildungsroman following the life and loves of left-wing academic Viktor Isaacs, and his relationships with a group of activists in London and Zimbabwe. The book is framed by the economic insecurities of the 2008 financial crisis, the Arab Revolutions and the political situation in Zimbabwe under the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. (Although the book appeared in 2017, it was written and published before the resignation of Mugabe in November 2017).

Unlike many novels set in Africa, An Ounce of Practice approaches its subject matter in a self-conscious, reflective manner, avoiding the clichés and stereotypes that appear so often in African fiction.[1] The novel is concerned with the crisis in one part of the world (London and a workers’ strike at a local university) balanced against the wider, global struggle for human rights and justice in Zimbabwe. This is bold fiction revealing the links between the local and global; a narrative that refuses the easy portrayal of the problems of Africa as disconnected from the economies and politics of the ‘developed’ world.

If this all sounds a bit serious and worthy, be reassured. This is certainly not a po-faced, politically correct tale about “iron Lenins”[2], but a powerful love story set against the political turmoil at the start of this decade that will keep you engaged until its bloody, bitter end. The concerns of this novel feel timely and necessary as the Right rises in influence across Europe and elsewhere, and as debate continues around the role and response of the Left. As I began reading this book, staff and students at Glasgow University and other campuses across Scotland initiated strike action over pension rights, and as I finished the last chapter, the ugly injustices visited on the Windrush migrants and their families was breaking news …

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