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Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa
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Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  722 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A mesmerizing novel of love and nostalgia set in the vast spaces of contemporary East Africa.

Romantic, often resonantly ironic, moving and wise, Rules of the Wild transports us to a landscape of unsurpassed beauty even as it gives us a sharp-eyed portrait of a closely knit tribe of cultural outsiders: the expatriates living in Kenya today. Challenged by race, by class, and
Kindle Edition, 306 pages
Published (first published 1998)
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Oh my God, I can't believe that this has become my favorite book so far. I can really relate with the main character, aside of course that we have the same name. And I deeply feel that I am going through the same situation as Esmeralda. I like the way she has described her feelings and experiences, like they were mine. I can fully sympathize with her thoughts, struggles and everything else.

This book will always stay with me.

I so love it!


I have found my favorite writer and my
This book is kind of a tough one to review... it's definitely a worthy read, and maybe on a different day I would give it four stars. I had some false starts with it - not always a good sign for a novel, but in this case I blame my own schedule and competing claims on my free time. The fact that I was able (and not reluctant) to return to it after several rather long breaks is, I think, actually an indication that it had captured my imagination in some way.

The writing was very lovely, and I enjo
This book has two distinct aspects that are very different. The main character and narrator is an Italian woman living in Nairobi which is the same as the author. She uses this book to provide a pretty good analysis of living in an expatriate "ghetto" in a developing country (lived that life so I have a good idea of what it's like) and make her commentary on major political events/issues such as apartheid, the anarchy and war in Somalia and especially the Rwandan genocide. This aspect of the boo ...more
Read the paperback years ago and over time it has stuck with me. Picked up the hardcover edition yesterday, opened to a random page and started reading. I was entranced! The writing is quite skilled; honest, spare prose and beautifully descriptive, all at once. I would have to reread it to cover specifics and there isn't time right now, but I can see I will return to this book soon. This book has something for everyone - universal themes, colorful landscapes, flawed but lovable characters... but ...more
I wouldn't say this was a GREAT book, but it managed to capture those feelings of being a little out of place, a little out of step, and somehow unsure of your own wants and needs. That really resonated with me when I read it...
Alison Wiley
Disclosure: my favorite voice in novels is the first-person narrative of a challenged female protagonist. But even if yours isn’t, I think you would be pulled in as I was by Rules of the Wild. Its vivid prose makes the outer world of modern Kenya and the inner world of a flawed, vulnerable young woman, Esme, into entrancing places we inhabit for a time, as we would a safari.

I can picture my friend Vicki reading Rules of the Wild and saying to me, “Why do you like Esme when she’s so materialistic
This novel's setting -- late 20th-century Kenya, with the Somalian civil war, slaughter in Rwanda and a continent struggling with population problems -- is the attraction here. Francesca Marciano's characters run to stereotypes, uniformly attractive and young expats, with a few (white) natives added to the mix. They overindulge in drink and drugs and sleep around and, except for the journalists and a safari organizer, they don't do much else.

The main character, Esme, who narrates the story, spen
This was an ok novel. It centered around a young, rather entitled, girl from Italy who travels to Africa and immediately falls for the gorgeous Safari leader and decides to live there...with him. It goes back and forth between the socio-political climate of the different African countries, and Esme's inability to just be happy. The two male characters, Adam and Hunter, live their own lives and have a sense of who they are, while Esme just flounders around, trying to imitate how everyone else li ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Philip rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Philip by: A friend
Picked this up out of desperation on safari and was expecting the worst as it said love story on the cover. I am impressed and loved the style. I think I may know a few of the characters perhaps too. Loved it.
I loved this book. It was right up my alley - an ex-pat community filled with a revolving door of international characters set in an exotic and dangerous space (in this case, Kenya). Many books like this are international espionage mysteries, but this was read more like a beautiful, haunting memoir. A lot less self-help than actual memoirs (like Eat, Pray, Love) and much more lyrical, intense and mournful. Marciano demystified the traveller's glamour while praising the elevated position that Wes ...more
Yawn. Another book (see Kuki Gallmann,Isak Dinesen) about glamorous young ex-pats in East Africa: relentless bedhopping, temporary incursions into bwana-hood (they get to hire staff!), houses that inevitably and eventually burn down. They sleep with rugged, dusty men who run adventure companies, they drive massive vehicles, and they get diarrhea.They hang out with people like them, agonize when they can't find a "place for themselves" in African society, and then they fly home to their country o ...more
Feb 09, 2008 Lucy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls, expats
Why is she not more famous?
This book is set in expat East Africa. The main character Esme visits Africa and decides not to leave. She settles in suburban Nairobi and builds something of a life there. Little has changed with racial attitudes in the expat community since colonial times and Esme and her contemporaries mostly lead lives of leisure and often excess.

When she meets a local journalist named Hunter, her ease dissapates. She is faced with the uncomfortable realities just outside her door that Hunter has witnessed d
Cynical story about a group of shallow, narcissistic expats living in Kenya. Their trust funds allow them to lead the kind of aimless lives that are often shown in the movies.

That said, I enjoyed the book: great descriptions about Africa (both the beauty and the horror), relevant political undertones (colonialism, race, violence), and interesting plot. The main character, Esme, is a mixed-up young woman who makes questionable choices (and realizes the irony though seems helpless to affect change
I have recently read this author's book of short stories. The writing was excellent and so I wanted to go back and pick up her earlier novels. This is her first novel. I have to say that the depiction of Africa is extremely well done. It is compelling and it has breath and depth. But it was difficult for me to relate to Esme, the main character, because she is so extremely self-absorbed.
I don't read much contemporary realistic fiction, but I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. The narrator is a young woman seeking her place in the world and a sense of self. Moving to Africa after the death of her father, this Italian girl embarks on a series of intense adventures, romances, and personal struggles. The language is gripping, the descriptions lush, the pacing excellent.
South Buncombe Library
This went straight to my staff picks shelf once I returned it to the library.

Good for patrons who want a quick moving but engrossing read with vivid setting and a hefty dose of melodrama.

This does read a bit like a women's book club selection, though, so I'm not sure it's really a great recommendation for everyone. But for some? Absolutely I'll pass along. -sarah
I'd have loved to read this book in one sitting, at my leisure, under a shady tree during a hot afternoon, instead of some minutes before work, some minutes during lunch, some minutes before bed. The African landscape is very beautifully described in this book, that it's a pity to let your imagination rush through while reading it, instead of savoring every little detail and make them walk slow motion in your mind.

As for the story... well, it's just okay. Maybe it's because i'm not that interes
Annie Smith
This book came into the thrift shop where I volunteer and because it's subtitle said it was "A novel of Africa", I decided to give it a whirl. (Mainly because our family went to Kenya this past summer) It was interesting to read about the aspects of it that dealt with living in Kenya and the turmoil in the surrounding countries during that time. The rest I think I may have enjoyed more when I was unmarried and interested in the figuring out the single life. It had some lovely writing and could b ...more
Though this was published 15 years ago, many themes still ring true. An enjoyable read and a decent look into expat life, especially in the neighborhood of Karen, a plush area of Nairobi that draws a lot of expats and white Kenyans.
It's no Thirty Girls, but I really loved this book about white people in Africa.

It also reminded me a bit of Off Course, in that it's got a woman having a quarter life crisis making questionable decisions, but it's more beautifully done and more uplifting than Michelle Hunevan's novel. It does seem like a debut and it's poorly edited, but I'd be very interested to see what Marciano has done since.
Nadia Y
This was an absorbing book about the life of white expats in Kenya although the writer continually refers to it dramatically as "Africa." The author is an Italian screenplay writer and it shows in the dialogue and descriptions. Everything feels like a movie, and the author often even describes a particular person or scene as straight out of a movie (boring!). Everyone is gorgeous and sexy. People do coke and smoke joints and have stormy love affairs while genocides are happening around them. Thi ...more
some amazing descriptions of Africa and being a white person working and living there, but bleak and a bit too cynical for me.
Is this really all young women sit around and worry about - their men? I guess I am not the perfect one to be reading a book in whatever genre this book is apart of but I did really want to read about Africa and ex-pats and all of that. And to this end, the author wrote well and convincingly. But I must say that after awhile I felt like screaming, "Get a freakin' life. Quit worrying about them. Just be yourself. Sheesh!" Um, well, ok. I'm better now. Anyway, thankfully a fast read with neat geog ...more
Amy Lomnicky
One of my favorite Africa books.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Elle magazine compared this book to The English Patient but I, respectfully, must disagree. This isn't to say Rules of the Wild isn't a wonderfully enjoyable read -- it just doesn't have the same sense of poetry or plot that The English Patient has. Rules of the Wild is more of a beach read, a little bit of escapist fiction set in Kenya featuring international ex-pats, drugs and alcohol, and a fringe of romance.
Liked it a lot.
Terri Kempton
A perfectly fine story of a young American/Italian moving to Africa. I thought she did a nice job of balancing the beauty and freedom of the third world with the dangers, challenges, and cultural issues of living in a foreign culture. I also appreciate the chance to peek through the window into life in Africa, which has always intrigued me but I've never experienced. The love story aspects are nuanced and realistic; also heartbreaking. Not a life-changing book, but entertaining to read and surpr ...more
This is one of those annoying books where none of the characters knows what love is! I didn't realize I had read this book before, because of the different covers on the different printings of the book. Apparently, this book did not leave a lasting impression on me the first time I read it or I would have remembered the story. Basically, it is about self-indulgent people who sleep with multiple partners because they are "trying to figure out who they are"! Lots of sleeping around and wasted enta ...more
I really liked this book and the way the author writes. It is the story mainly about Esme an Italian woman who ends up living in East Africa. A story of her relationships with all of the expatriates, the men she loves and her love of the country she has adopted. I am putting it under favorites, because something in the story really spoke to me.
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Francesca Marciano is an Italian novelist and a screen writer. She has lived in New York and in Kenya for many years. To date she has written four novels: “Rules of the Wild”, listed as one of the NYT notable books of the year, ”Casa Rossa”, “The End of Manners” and “The Other Language”. She’s currently living in Rome.
More about Francesca Marciano...
The Other Language Casa Rossa The End of Manners: A Novel Voces de cristal/ Glass Voices (Spanish Edition) Casa Rossa (Longanesi Narrativa)

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“How can I explain this? Why is it you can never hope to describe the emotion Africa creates?
You are lifted.
Out of whatever pit, unbound from whatever tie, released from whatever fear. You are lifted and you see it all from above. Your pit, your ties, your fear. you are lifted, you slowly rise like a hot-air balloon, and all you see is the space and the endless possibilities for losing yourself in it.”
“I didn't go there lightly. I knew even then that this was the beginning of something very hard to reverse. But I couldn't do otherwise now: I was too possessed” 4 likes
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