Olive the Lionheart by Brad Ricca is a brilliant retelling of the forgotten story of Olive MacLeod, an amazing Scottish woman who undertook her own remarkable journey into the heart of Africa in the early 1900s in search of answers about the death of her fiance, renowned naturalist Boyd Alexander. From Olive’s diaries, that had been collecting dust on a shelf in the family’s ancestral home, Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye,
as well as from other factual sources: the personal diaries of Boyd and others, journals, a book of letters, photos and drawings, and other first-person accounts, Ricca has created a captivating and wonderfully revealing story.
Olive MacLeod’s expedition into the heart of Africa, during the tumultuous and dangerous beginning of the twentieth century, is groundbreaking and fascinating if only for the fact that women explorers during this time were extraordinarily rare. Knowing that Olive undertook such a difficult and arduous journey out of love is even more compelling. I love the fact that Olive the Lionheart is able to convey both the factual details and significance of this accomplishment with the emotional motivation that drove Olive to follow after Boyd, in a story that is interesting to read. So many details about life in Africa: the customs and beliefs of the native people, the attitudes of the Colonial governments, and Olive’s personality are peppered throughout the retelling of the her journey.
Ricca has produced a fabulous historical biography that is not only informative but a fascinating window into a truly remarkable and intriguing woman. Ricca’s use of Olive’s actually diary entries, the letters shared between her and Boyd, and the style of writing of that time to construct a narrative style biography, that unveils information through flashbacks and memories, is a wonderful way delve into the life of a person and the time in which they lived. Olive the Lionheart will not only capture your imagination and introduce you to an exceedingly remarkable woman, but will inspire you to be motivated by love in accomplishing great things.