Helena Drysdale


Dancing with the Dead

a journey through Zanzibar and Madagascar, published by Hamish Hamilton 1991 (illustrated by Richard Pomeroy),
The Long Riders' Guild Press 2006

Dancing With The Dead
In an attic in Devon Helena Drysdale discovered family papers which revealed that her nineteenth century ancestors had traded in Madagascar, Zanzibar and the Comoro Islands. There were hints of piracy and slave trading. She set off to follow in their wake and seek out any lingering family connections.

On dhows, cargo boats, dug-out canoes, in lorries and on foot, her journey took her from old colonial Mombasa to the labyrinthine alleys of Zanzibar, from Moslem ceremonies of 'second marriage' in the Comoro Islands, to ancestor-worship in Madagascar with the annual exhumations of the dead.

This is not only a story of the wilder parts of the Indian Ocean, but also of our own relationships with our ancestors. Dancing with the Dead is intensely romantic and delightful. Helena Drysdale writes with a freshness and vigour which makes every page of this unusual and engaging travel book sparkle with pleasure.

'She has an exceptionally good eye for fleeting, but tell-tale details. A brilliant saga.'
Richard Dowden, The Independent

Chapter 1. Chasing Shadows; 2. Mombasa; 3. Dar Es Salaam; 4. Zanzibar; 5. Comoro Islands; 6. Madagascar - Antananarivo; 7. Down the East Coast; 8. In the Highlands; 9. The North West; 10. The North; 11. On the Pirate Trail; Appendix: Nineteenth century rulers of Zanzibar and Madagascar; Glossary of Swahili and Malagasy words; maps and photographs

© Helena Drysdale 2006
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