The Devil That Danced On The Water

Praised as “a shining example of what autobiography can be: harrowing, illuminating and thoughtful” (USA Today), Aminatta Forna’s intensely personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an idyllic childhood which became the stuff of nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of post-colonial Africa, danger, flight, the bitterness or exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father’s stand against tyranny.


Mohamed Forna was a man of unimpeachable integrity and enchanting charisma. As Sierra Leone faced its future as a fledgling democracy, he was a new star in the political firmament, a man who had been one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. He stole the heart of Aminatta’s mother to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents and returned with her to Sierra Leone.

But as Aminatta Forna shows with compelling clarity, the old Africa was torn apart by new ways of western parliamentary democracy, which gave birth only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-of magnitude. It was not long before Mohamed Forna languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and worse to follow.
Aminatta’s search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation’s destiny began among the country’s elite and took her into the heart of rebel territory.

Determined to break the silence surrounding her father’s fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation’s politicians and judiciary to confront their guilt. The Devil that Danced on the Water is a book of pain and anger and sorrow, written with tremendous dignity and beautiful  precision: a remarkable, and important, story of Africa.

The Author

Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain and spent periods of her childhood in Iran, Thailand and Zambia. She is the award-winning author of the novels The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones, and a memoir The Devil that Danced on the Water. Aminatta is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and in 2013 held the post of Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College, Massachusetts. In March 2014 Aminatta Forna was named as a winner of a Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize awarded annually by Yale University.

The Hired Man is the story of a Croatian village and the English family who buy a holiday home there, it is a tale of war, betrayal and secrets that linger. The Hired Man was picked as one of the Best Books of 2013 by National Public Radio in the US where it was also a Barnes & Nobles 2013 Critics Choice. The Hired Manwas selected as one of the best book of 2013 by The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Australian and the NZ Listener.

The Memory of Love (Bloomsbury, April 2010) is a story about friendship, war and obsessive love. The novel was winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award 2011, short-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011, the IMPAC Award 2012, the Warwick Prize 2011 and nominated for the European Prize for Fiction 2013. It was selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times and Times newspapers and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice book.

The Devil that Danced on the Water (HarperCollins 2002), a memoir of her dissident father and of Sierra Leone, was runner up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003, chosen for the Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers series and serialised on BBC Radio and in The Sunday Times newspaper.

Ancestor Stones (Bloomsbury 2006) was winner of the Hurston Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, the Liberaturpreis in Germany and the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize, and was nominated for the International Dublin IMPAC Award. It was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice book, selected by the Washington Postas one of the Best Novels of 2006 and The Listener Magazine’s Best 10 Books of 2006.

Aminatta’s books have been translated into fifteen languages.

Aminatta has also published short stories and was a finalist for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in Granta,The Times, The Observer and Vogue. She has written for television and radio and her TV credits include “The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu” (BBC Television, 2009). A regular commentator on British arts programmes she has guest presented BBC Radio’s “Open Book” and “Saturday Review.”

Aminatta is a Fellow and Council member of the Royal Society of Literature and sits on the Board of the National Theatre of Great Britain, the General Committee of the Royal Literary Fund and the Council of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She is also a member of the Folio Academy. She has acted as judge for a number of literary awards and was most recently a judge for the 2013 International Man Booker Prize.

In 2003 Aminatta established the Rogbonko Project to build a school in a village in Sierra Leone. The charity now runs a number of projects in the spheres of education, sanitation and maternal health. Aminatta Forna lives in South East London.