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Café d'Afrique: One of the best love stories I have ever been told - Karen Louise Murphy

When I first received my review copy of Tineke Van Der Eecken’s revised edition of Cafe D'Afrique, I was only one chapter in and found myself already completely in love with the rawness and honesty that she writes with. I felt myself growing with Van Der Eecken as she progressed through the story and exposed an innate human vulnerability through her love affair with Africa. She represents the culture of the country without any embellishments, showing the reader that despite the surrounding social and political disorder, Africa has this flawed beauty that makes me feel so intimately connected to Van Der Eecken and the experiences that help shape her disposition.

Written partly as a memoir, and partly as a travelogue, this book reads as a celebration of a country and the resilience of those that have long suffered for their beliefs and their culture. Although this book shares with the reader a lot of the natural African landscapes and cultural traditions, the real intimacy is tangled in how Van Der Eecken represents her own psychological backdrops as she breaks through all of her preconceptions of the corruption and suffrage, to fall in love, not just with the people around her, but with all of the strengths and weaknesses of an entire nation.

We grow with Van Der Eecken as she discovers herself and her identity through her experiences with a culture that is so remotely different from her Belgian upbringing. As a result, Van Der Eecken writes candidly about these strengths and weaknesses, not just in herself, but with the culture she experiences. She uses Africa as a metaphor for human experience and personal discovery, revealing intimate details about herself and her growth through her business adventure, Café D’Afrique, moreso than I think she may have originally intended. This coming of age story is not just about falling in love with these experiences and the people that help her setup the Café, but rather, it is about falling in love with a country, and loving it regardless of its weaknesses.

Coming up against obstacles every step of the way, Van Der Eecken must eventually let go of Café D’Afrique, but as the reader, I don’t see myself longing for a better ending. After all, the beauty in this story isn’t about the Café itself, it’s about the journey Van Der Eecken takes and the person Africa turns her into. For me, the book proves that love really does make the world go round, and it proves that everything is beautiful, even if it’s flawed. I guess you could say, Café D’Afrique is a love story, one of the best love stories I’ve ever been told.