Voluntary Exiles: From Tamatave to Peking
Hale & Iremonger, $34.95 pb, 367 pp
After a three-month journey to Madagascar by steam-ship, the first thing to greet the newly married missionaries Thomas and Elizabeth Rowlands were fields of wet sugar cane. Brightly painted wooden cottages surrounded the harbour; former slaves and Arab, Indian, and Chinese traders filled the streets. ‘Rain fell heavily, but covers of rofia cloth, which swelled and thickened in the wet kept the travellers dry.’ Their granddaughter, Joan Rowlands, describes their inland journey in Voluntary Exiles. Crossing crocodile-infested rivers, bearers held the Rowlands aloft, ‘shouting and beating [the waters] with branches and poles to ward off attack’.