Mandoa is a small African state: at its head a Virgin Princess, conceiving (immaculately) further princesses. The old traditions remain undisturbed until Mandoa's Lord High Chamberlain, Safi Tala, visits Addis Ababa. There he discovers baths and cocktail shakers, motor cars and cutlery from Sheffield, telephones and handkerchiefs. In short, he has seen an apocalyptic vision - a new heaven and a new earth.Meanwhile in England it is 1931. Maurice Durrant, youngest director of Prince's Tours Limited, has won North Donnington for the Conservatives. His socialist brother Bill is unemployed and their friend Jean Stanbury loses her job on The Byeword, a radical weekly paper. How all three, and others too, find themselves in Mandoa for the wedding of the Royal Princess to her Arch-archbishop is hilariously told in this wonderful satirical novel, first published in 1933.
This is a book that is hard to get hold of now, and so although I would have preferred a virago edition of it to read I was glad of the chance to read it via kindle. I really enjoyed this slightly unusual novel. Written in the wake of the general election of 1931, and during the depression, it is an enormously intelligent political satire. Alongside the story of the launch of the new Mandoa is the story of the relationship between Maurice and Bill Durrant - between whom there exists terrible sibling jealousy, and Jean Stanbury friend of the Durrants, who becomes involved with the campaign against the involvement of Prince's tours in Mandoa. In this novel Holtby raises interesting questions about the modern (1930's) world verses a more primitive one. Many characters are amusing stereotypes - and the vast differences of social conventions in Mandoan and European societies are hilariously highlighted. I found this a very readable novel, well written - and although some aspects of the societies described are rather dated now, is interesting still, for what it can tell us about the time it was written.