Highly engaging, intoxicatingly romantic, and full of almost unbelievable stories, Dreaming of Lions traces her life from growing up in pre-World War II New Hampshire and Massachusetts to the present day, via the pivotal moment when her father’s research saw the family relocate to the Kalahari Basin where she assisted on anthropological studies of the !Kung-speaking Ju/Wasi Bushmen.
Africa hereafter plays a leading role in her life story, as she and her young family spent many years criss-crossing the continent studying the varied people and fauna within. As well as telling fascinating stories about the remote communities she bonds with, and the rich natural world she was able to experience, it’s also an in-depth, bewildering, and at times horrifying glimpse into the power struggles within Africa during the 1960s. She recalls witnessing everything from tribal raids in rural Uganda to all-out civil war in Nigeria. A whole chapter is devoted to the depression and alcoholism Thomas experienced in the aftermath of these.
Thomas speaks openly about her relationships during these times and the emotional difficulties that accompanied them. However, just as intimate are the relationships she forms with the many animals she encounters along her travels. From stalking wolves on Baffin Island, to observing sleeping lions in Namibia, the core narrative remains her own continuous awakening and gradual understanding of the natural world. This is an incredible life story, told in powerful and poetic prose.
This review was published in the March 2016 edition of Geographical Magazine