Home > Africa, Books, Travel > The African Queen, a novel by C.S. Forester

The African Queen, a novel by C.S. Forester

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I just finished reading this book. Wow. Quite interesting for such a short novel. It’s set in the Congo, at the time when the Germans are trying to capture it from the Belgians. If you don’t know the story, it’s a pretty quick read—well-written and interesting. Nothing that requires too much analysis or contemplation, a true piece of entertainment that is really about the relationship of two people in unlikely circumstances.

It’s a good story, with a lovely bit of romance. I have added the movie to my library requests and am really looking forward to seeing Humphrey Bogart play a cockney engineer, and Katherine Hepburn play a minister’s sister. I think it will all come off pretty well.

While I was reading the book, I came across several words that I either didn’t recognize at all, or knew but didn’t fully understand. When this happens once, I just kind of skim over the word, but when it happens several times, as it did with this novel, I think it’s fun to look words up. It’s an opportunity to expand my vocabulary. I know that there is this idea that we are supposed to use the most simplistic form of words available for clarity, etc. but that must be balanced with the opportunity we have to develop nuance in our meaning by using more refined words. That is my justification anyway for trying to expand my vocabulary.

Here are the 5 words that I came across, their sentences to give them context, and their heretofore unknown meanings (from the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary-my copy is from 1996):

1. Surfeit: “Surfeit was yet to come.”

Meaning: an excess,  esp. in eating or drinking

2. Casuistry: “All the same, and in a fashion completely devoid of casuistry, Rose was appreciative of the difference between business and pleasure.”

Meaning: person who uses clever but false reasoning in matters of conscience, etc

3. Uxorious: “As it was, the discussion ended eventually, as was quite inevitable, in Allnutt’s saying that ‘he would see what he could do,’ just as some other uxorious husband in civilization might see what could be done about buying a new drawing-room suite.”

Meaning: greatly or excessively fond of one’s wife

4. Objurgations: “‘Which way are they going?’ asked Rose, cutting through his objurgations.”

Meaning: a harsh rebuke (according to Merriam-Webster as it was not listed in my pocket dictionary)

5. Peroration: “This peroration annoyed the President; it was almost impertinence on the part of a mere lieutenant to tell a commander what was the extent of his powers.”

Meaning: concluding part of a speech

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  1. Jyoti
    January 16, 2012 at 07:45

    I like the way you decided to expand your vocabulary by looking up the meanings of word that were unfamiliar to you while reading this book. I read that we only use a very small portion of the English vocab in our daily life which seems sad as our language is rich and deep and when you mention nuance, I think unless we can keep nuance alive in our speech as well as our writing, we will all be the poorer for its loss in the end.
    Love Jyoti
    PS I saw the movie many years ago, but am now motivated to see it again with your interest and reading of the book.

  2. Randy Webb
    April 7, 2012 at 15:42

    I love C. S. Forester, especially the Hornblower series. One of the words i remember learning was “catenaries” describing the arc of the lines from a headland height that were to be used to sway up a gun.
    I think Forester wrote the screenplay for “The African Queen,” and the movie is certainly very true to the book. The film used to play every exam period during the Bogey festival at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. the hard core Bogey fans didn’t like it because they thought it atypical, but it was masterful acting job.
    Forester wrote another favorite of mine called “The Good Shepherd” about an American Destroyer Captain commanding an escort of Polish, Canadian and British shipes protecting a convoy the the North Atlantic in WW II. A masterly telling of the internal dialogue of a man driven to perform at his best under the most trying conditions. Hard to find except in big used book stores.

    • Fiona Cox
      April 10, 2012 at 09:28

      Thanks for your comment, Randy! I will have to look into more of Forester’s work. I read Hepburn’s account of the making of the film and it was quite interesting. Imagine making a film like that back then.

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