South Africa, 1884. William Abbey, an English doctor, watches white colonists lynch a Zulu child. As the boy dies, his mother curses William: wherever he goes, the shadow of her son will follow him. It will never stop, never rest. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.
It's heavy. It's cruel. There are not many pages of The Pursuit of William Abbey (as there were not many moments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) that are not haunted by dead things ... North can sketch a character in a sentence, a phrase. She can evoke an entire city in the space of a breath. There is no piece of The Pursuit that is forgettable, that fades, that is used merely to fill time between this thing and that. The entirety of Abbey's life as a truth-speaker is propulsive. It is like one long chase scene that never slackens, told in frantic, disconnected pieces until a moment comes when need requires depth, breadth ... It is bleak. It is beautiful. It has, buried deep inside, a hopeful heart. Because The Pursuit of William Abbey is a chameleon. It is a shape-shifter. And, like the truth, it will break your heart every time.
North’s latest once again displays her mastery of lyrical prose ... The historical period from 1884 to 1917 provides a rich veldt of events for William to interact with as he anxiously tries to outpace his curse. The author presents a fascinating testament to humanity’s fallibility and tendency towards denial, merged with the potency of truth and the power of love.
North uses intentionally disturbing language—commonly used by Victorian-era whites—and imagery to describe African characters and the things that happen to them. Such language seems to be employed here to drive home the atrocities of colonialism but may be upsetting for some readers ... Recommended for fantasy fans with a penchant for darker story lines that investigate themes of colonialism and struggles for power.