Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A British diplomat's life in West Africa gets complicated when he becomes entangled in a local politician's schemes.


"A Good Man in Africa" by William Boyd is a satirical novel that offers a witty and insightful exploration of the political and social landscape in West Africa. The story follows Morgan Leafy, a British diplomat stationed in a fictional African country, as he navigates through a series of misadventures and moral dilemmas. Through its vivid characters and sharp humor, the novel provides a thought-provoking commentary on colonialism, corruption, and the clash of cultures.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The novel is set in the fictional country of Kinjanja, a former British colony in West Africa. The protagonist, Morgan Leafy, is a middle-aged and disillusioned British diplomat assigned to the British High Commission in the capital city of Nkongsamba. Morgan is a flawed character, grappling with his personal insecurities, alcoholism, and a string of failed relationships. His life takes an unexpected turn when he becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue, corruption, and personal vendettas.


The story is primarily set in Nkongsamba, the bustling and chaotic capital city of Kinjanja. Boyd vividly portrays the vibrancy and chaos of urban life in West Africa, capturing the juxtaposition of traditional customs and modern influences. The political landscape of Kinjanja serves as a backdrop for the unfolding drama, highlighting the complexities and tensions within a post-colonial society.

Main Characters

Morgan LeafyA cynical and self-destructive British diplomat struggling with personal and professional challenges.
Dr. Alex MurrayLeafy's idealistic and naive colleague, whose actions inadvertently lead to a series of chaotic events.
Hazel VerneyA love interest of Leafy, representing the expatriate community in Kinjanja. She is independent and unafraid to challenge norms.
Arthur FanshaweLeafy's manipulative and corrupt boss at the British High Commission, whose schemes complicate Leafy's life further.
AdidoA local politician and a central figure in the political machinations that ensnare Leafy.

Summary of Each Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3: The Diplomat's Dilemma

Morgan Leafy is introduced as a disgruntled and disillusioned diplomat who is struggling to find purpose and meaning in his life. He becomes embroiled in a scandalous affair with Hazel Verney, a woman who is part of the expatriate community in Nkongsamba. Meanwhile, Dr. Alex Murray, Leafy's idealistic colleague, unknowingly sets off a chain of events that will have far-reaching consequences.

Chapter 4-6: Political Machinations

The political landscape of Kinjanja comes into focus as Leafy becomes entangled in the corrupt dealings of local politicians, including Adido. His boss, Arthur Fanshawe, manipulates Leafy into carrying out his devious plans, leading to a series of moral dilemmas for the protagonist.

Chapter 7-9: Unraveling Chaos

Leafy's life spins further out of control as he finds himself embroiled in a series of mishaps, including a botched bribery attempt and a vengeful plot against him. His relationships, both personal and professional, become increasingly strained, and he struggles to maintain his composure in the face of mounting chaos.

Chapter 10-12: Reckoning and Resolution

As the novel reaches its climax, the various plot threads converge, and Leafy is forced to confront the consequences of his actions. The tensions between the expatriate community and the local population come to a head, and Leafy's personal and professional life hang in the balance. The resolution of the story brings a mix of catharsis and introspection for the characters.

Main Events

  • Leafy's affair with Hazel Verney
  • Dr. Murray's unwitting involvement in a political scandal
  • Leafy's entanglement in corrupt political machinations
  • A botched bribery attempt and its aftermath
  • Tensions between the expatriate community and the locals
  • Leafy's personal and professional reckoning

Themes and Insights

Colonial Legacy and Post-Colonial Realities

Boyd's portrayal of Kinjanja offers a nuanced examination of the enduring impact of colonialism on the country's political and social landscape. The novel delves into the complexities of post-colonial societies, highlighting the power struggles, corruption, and cultural clashes that continue to shape the nation.

Corruption and Moral Ambiguity

The novel explores the pervasive nature of corruption and the moral ambiguity that characterizes the actions of its characters. Through Leafy's experiences, Boyd offers a critical commentary on the ethical dilemmas faced by individuals operating within corrupt systems, blurring the lines between complicity and resistance.

Clash of Cultures and Identity

The clash between British expatriates and the local population in Kinjanja serves as a microcosm of the broader tensions between Western influence and African traditions. The novel delves into the complexities of cultural identity and the challenges of navigating between different worlds.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Good Man in Africa" offers a compelling and darkly humorous exploration of the complexities of human nature, the legacy of colonialism, and the moral dilemmas that arise in a corrupt and stratified society. Readers will find themselves engaged in the richly drawn characters and the thought-provoking themes that underpin the narrative.


William Boyd's "A Good Man in Africa" stands as a masterful work of satire and social commentary, offering a captivating portrayal of life in post-colonial West Africa. Through its vivid characters and incisive wit, the novel invites readers to grapple with the enduring legacies of colonialism, the complexities of moral ambiguity, and the clash of cultures. With its blend of humor and insight, the book leaves a lasting impression on those who embark on the journey through its pages.

A Good Man in Africa FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Good Man in Africa'?

    A Good Man in Africa is a satirical novel that falls under the genre of dark comedy.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Good Man in Africa'?

    William Boyd is the author of 'A Good Man in Africa'.

  3. What is the main theme of the book?

    The main themes of 'A Good Man in Africa' include political satire, colonialism, and the clash of cultures.

  4. Is 'A Good Man in Africa' part of a series?

    No, 'A Good Man in Africa' is a standalone novel and not part of a series.

  5. Where is the story set?

    The story is primarily set in the fictional African country of Kinjanja.