A young, freewheeling and adventurous doctor from Scotland travels to Uganda, Africa during great civil unrest and ends up in the employ of the violent Ugandan president Idi Amin. Nicholas Garrigan is a young Scottish doctor who is set to follow in his stuffy father's footsteps and inherit the family practice. Nicholas, however is much too brazen and hot blooded to settle for the quiet life of a respectable practitioner; he has other plans. After reading about the picturesque land of Uganda in Africa, he decides to travel there in order work. Upon his arrival he finds that Uganda is not very much like the place he had read about in his books. It's hot, there are massive insects, most of the people are dressed in Western clothing and the buses are overcrowded. His books certainly romanticized the country. When Nicholas reaches town he finds a crowd has gathered in the square and a sort of rally is taking place. The subject of the rally is the newly elected president of Uganda, Idi Amin. It seems that there is much mystery surrounding Idi Amin; some sing his praises while others have nothing but disdain for him. Nicholas isn't sure either way what to make of the President and all and all he doesn't believe it will affect him in his work. He joins the hospital staff in the town and spends his days tending to festering parasitic wounds. His time at the hospital is dreary and exhausting as he is inundated with more patients than he imagined and he has no contact with the outside world other than an unreliable radio. One day while walking down the road he comes across a car accident. A fancy, red Maserati has colliding with a cow and the driver is none other than the President Idi Amin. Amin has only twisted his hand but blubbers like a baby. Nicholas attends to him and the two begin talking. Amin quickly becomes enamored of Nicholas due to the fact that he is Scottish and Amin has a love of all things Scottish. He asks Nicholas to become his personal physician and Nicholas accepts as it is preferable to the back breaking work at the town's clinic. At first, Nicholas settles into his new position nicely. He notes that the president acts quite buffoonish at times and has somewhat of a temper but sweeps these observations aside as he lives quite well and does not have very much work to do. Nicholas ends up falling in love with one of Idi Amin's wives, Kay. The two manage to keep their affair a secret. All the while, Idi Amin is becoming increasingly erratic; his outbursts become more and more violent and he commits unspeakable acts upon those who oppose him all the while presenting himself as a good natured president on the world's stage. Nicholas begins to realize that he is in an incredibly dangerous position but knows that it would be death to oppose the crazed dictator. Instead he lives in ignorance, choosing to turn a blind eye to the horrors around him and focusing only Kay. Kay, however knows what Amin is truly capable of warns him that he wants to live, Nicholas must find a way out of Uganda. Still, Nicholas is afraid of what might happen if he tries to escape and fails even as he is called to treat more and more victims of Amin's terrible acts. During this time, Nicholas has fallen out of favor with Idi Amin. At one point, Amin considered him his most trusted advisor, but now treats him like a bitter lover. To make Nicholas' position even more precarious, he finds out that Kay is pregnant with his child. Kay wants to have an abortion and threatens to visit a witch doctor because another doctor at the clinic refuses to perform the abortion. He knows that he will be caught and put to death if Idi Amin were ever to find out. Nicholas decides to do the abortion himself but before he can, he is called in to Amin's chambers where it asks him if there is anything Nicholas wants to tell him. Nicholas lies and says no and then rushes to Kay's house in order to perform the abortion. When he gets there, he finds the servants wailing insensibly. They tell him that Kay decided to take matters into her own hands and visit a witch doctor but the abortion was botched and she was transported to the clinic instead. So Nicholas rushes to the hospital and is led to a room said to be where the traitors of Idi Amin are kept. In the room, he finds a dismembered Kay. Horrified, Nicholas rushes back to the house of Amin and demands to know why he had Kay killed. Amin tells him he did it to make an example out of her but does not hint whether or not he knows that Nicholas is the father. Amin complains of a headache and Nicholas gives him a bottle of pills that are actually poison. When one of Idi Amin's soldiers tries to force a child soldier to take one of the pills, Nicholas snatches the pills away before the child can consume it thus giving himself away. It is then that Amin reveals he knew about Nicholas' affair with Kay and then tortures him profusely.
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After they have had enough, Amin and his soldiers leave Nicholas to bleed when a man who had observed the torture tends to Nicholas and helps him get to a plane that is flying out of Uganda. When Nicholas asks why the man is helping him, after all he was the physician to a dictator, the man tells him that the world needed to know what was really happening in Uganda and the leaders of the world would believe Nicholas. Nicholas makes it on the plane just before it takes off and he finally allows himself to relax with the knowledge that he is safe from danger at last. He vows to tell the world about the horrors and the tyranny of the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because it gave some insight into thee very real and very terrifying man who was Idi Amin. It does not paint him in a sympathetic way and it does not gloss over the troubles of the Ugandan government nor the willingness of the world leaders to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Ugandan people.
Best scene in story:
I can't say that I particularly liked this part of the book but to me the part where Nicholas finds Kay's dismembered body was the most powerful and memorable because it felt like Nicholas had directly caused the torture of a Ugandan citizen and finally had to face the fact that he was just as much a part of Idi Amin's horrific actions even if he had not actually carried out any torture or participated in it.
Opinion about the main character:
I found it hard to sympathize with the main character. Though he was hardly someone who could have opposed the dictator, he could have refused Amin's gifts and initial request for him to become his doctor. Nicholas was complicit in the acts of Amin by way of being neutral and silent. He was a morally ambiguous character who got into bed with a dictator thus I did not like him.