BOOK REVIEW: The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian

Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Format: Kindle
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher: Doubleday
317 pages
Buy: Kindle | Audio


Tanzania, 1964. When Katie Barstow, A-list actress, and her new husband, David Hill, decide to bring their Hollywood friends to the Serengeti for their honeymoon, they envision giraffes gently eating leaves from the tall acacia trees, great swarms of wildebeests crossing the Mara River, and herds of zebras storming the sandy plains. Their glamorous guests—including Katie’s best friend, Carmen Tedesco, and Terrance Dutton, the celebrated Black actor who stars alongside Katie in the highly controversial film Tender Madness—will spend their days taking photos, and their evenings drinking chilled gin and tonics back at camp, as the local Tanzanian guides warm water for their baths. The wealthy Americans expect civilized adventure: fresh ice from the kerosene-powered ice maker, dinners of cooked gazelle meat, and plenty of stories to tell over lunch back on Rodeo Drive.   

What Katie and her glittering entourage do not expect is this: a kidnapping gone wrong, their guides bleeding out in the dirt, and a team of Russian mercenaries herding their hostages into Land Rovers, guns to their heads. As the powerful sun gives way to night, the gunmen shove them into abandoned huts and Katie Barstow, Hollywood royalty, prays for a simple thing: to see the sun rise one more time. 


I am a huge fan of this author and was sadly disappointed in this book.  I really struggled with caring about the characters. I understand the nuances of big Hollywood, race, betrayal, and being gay during that time period but I just had a hard time connecting with the characters. 

Katie decides to take her family and friends on a safari for her honeymoon.  What they don't expect is to be betrayed by one of their own, discover the truth of their loved ones personalities, witness the gruesome death of several people and have to live with the guilt that they led their friends and family into this destruction. 

The story is broken out by each character telling their story of how they met, their connection to Katie, and how they behaved during the kidnapping gone wrong.  I think I couldn't connect much with some of the back stories and just didn't really like some of the characters, others really shined but not enough to make me like this story.  The writing was well done as usual but even that couldn't save this for me.  

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