Ella hates bigots and bullies. She hated wee bullies in primary school (and their mothers sometimes), big teacher bullies in secondary school, huge bullies like some white colonials in Kenya, even bigger bullies like some African politicians and especially the biggest bullies - world leaders like some American presidents or controllers of multinational companies who control world finances. She also hates teenagers who bully others because they can't speak English.
This is the 'must read' novel for the early twenty first century for anyone who stops to think about where humankind is heading. What instinct causes some people to move across the world and mingle with other cultures and why do others fear this commingling and try, come hell or high water, to preserve their own culture and destroy all others?
Little Ella wonders why she's the only one in her family with flaming red hair and why everybody at her school looks different. Is she a mixed drop? (a type of boiled sweet during the 1950s) The 'Dominie' explains that it's all to do with migration and that it's good to be different and that in the beginning we all came from the same source - Darwin for six year olds. Migration caused all the different hair and eye colours in isolated Balnahuig.
Later in life Ella reflects on migration in modern times which has led to even more differences - and FUSION of skin colours and cultures. She dares to hope that humankind will one day transcend their differences in faith and culture and evolve into some kind of super humanity that considers globalisation for the common good from an inter- (or beyond-) faith point of view.
The characters of Mike Kilpatrick and John Francis a.k.a. Ricardo represent Ella's internal dilemma. On one side there is Mike of similar Scottish heritage and who shares her ideals and love of African literature. She knows that marriage to him would please her parents. On the other side is the dangerous exciting John who is of a different race and religion. Which one should she choose?
Meantime Mwalimu Gloria, 'Granny of the airlifts' waits in the wings to see if the mixed race son of one of her proteges will become President of the USA. That would be more than fusion. That would be justice.
'Fusion' is packed full of eccentric characters: Ewan Cameron with his spectacular war wound and half an ear, Toffee Mac the fat, bigoted Scripture teacher, Randolph and Terence the very British colonials parodied by the 1960s youngsters and the cosmopolitan mix of expatriates and locals in post-colonial Kenya and later in a London multicultural school population.
The settings are varied and exotic: remote and scenic coastal Caithness, Kenya and its infinite variety of scenic gems including Mount Kenya, the Great Rift Valley, the palm-fringed white sands by the Indian Ocean, an ex colonial farm, a changing Nairobi and a recently out of special measures London comprehensive school.
It has all the ingredients for a great film.
Real historical events and characters come up with strange links between 1953, 1968/69 and 2006/7.
Was there a huge uncovered secret linking 1960/63 and 1969?
What was the link with Nelson Mandela?