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Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,001 Ratings  ·  181 Reviews
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Joan Root was English by heritage, African by birth, and a lover of Kenya, its animals, and its people. Her home on the banks of Lake Vainasha was a veritable Eden to a menagerie of recuperating and orphaned animals. A visitor once mistook for a waterbed Joan's pet hippo, Sally, who was napping in a corner of the room.

So shy tha
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Published May 26th 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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This biography of Joan Root opened my eyes to the world of nature films in Africa in the 1960s through to the 1990s. I wasn't familiar with the name of Joan and Alan Root, who labored out of love for the land and each other, to produce multiple award-winning films, primarily about Africa. Joan was born in Kenya, met and married Alan there, and embarked on a life of adventure with him, creating films about the world around them.

As an offshoot of this, Joan also adopted wounded/injured animals and
Jun 06, 2009 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kenya
Mark Seal admits in the opening of the book that he had never been to Kenya before he decided to research this story for an article that grew into a book. The early part of the book, which deals with Joan and Alan Root's early lives and the development of their film making careers, as well as the eventual end of their marriage and partnership, is an interesting personal story. But when Seal moves on to describe Joan's life alone, and the personal and political circumstances that led to murder, t ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am familiar with the Root's documentaries. If you have seen any nature documentaries at all, you sometimes feel frustrated how someone can film an animal in distress and not help somehow. Even though it may be for science, a starving or suffering animal is very difficult to watch. I've always liked the Root's documentaries because they do help. When the Wildebeest gets stuck crossing the Mara River, Alan risks his life to pull it out. Does it make a difference? No, only to that wildebeest. Whe ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good story & reminded me of all the wonderful & all the awful things of Kenya. But I was a little annoyed at the biased view of her husband after their split. He was really taking advantage of her & not treating her well, and the book still treats him as this wonderful person who was a victim of circumstances when in reality he was a victim of his own selfish actions.
Sep 28, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it

Joan Root was in love: with her husband, her native Africa, the animals that surrounded her and her home. She built a life filming those things with her husband, award winning documentary film director, Alan Root. But after Alan left her for another woman, she had to rediscover who she was and what in life was worth fighting for. She found that in her home – her 80 acres and small farm on the banks of Lake Naivasha in Kenya. When industrial hot houses that
Aug 17, 2009 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book written by Mark Seal, a Vanity Fair editor, who tells the story of the life and murder of Joan Root who along with her husband Alan Root, are Oscar winning African wildlife filmmakers. Joan Root's story is one of her unconditional love for her husband, Africa, and the wild animals that inhabit Kenya and Lake Naivaasha, her Kenyan home. She was a strong, principled, beautiful woman, who dedicated her life to protecting and fighting to preserve every beast, reptile, fish ...more
Becki Murphy
May 10, 2011 Becki Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely engrossed in this story. The first half of the book tells us about Joan, how she grew up and her life and work with her husband Alan. I kept looking back at the cover trying to reconcile the person in the book with the woman on the cover with the shy smile. It was hard for me to put the two together. She was strong and courageous and committed yet still shy and vulnerable......such a unique combination. Even more interesting for me is the story of her efforts to save the lake sh ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joan Root was an extraordinary woman who was way ahead of her time. The story of her life was adventurous and heartbreaking, and I was pissed off for about 50% of the book. Her husband Alan was a HUGE asshole, and all I gathered from the book was that his wandering dick is what indirectly caused her untimely death. He left her alone in Africa to chase tail after she'd single-handedly launched his career and was unflaggingly faithful to him for 30 years.

Like seriously, I can't even believe what
Aug 15, 2009 IreneS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 21, 2012 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
In September 2006, I had the great pleasure of travelling to Kenya where I worked with conservationists on various research initiatives in the Rift Valley. We worked, part of the time, on Joan Roots property on the shore of Lake Naivasha where she was murdered just 9 months before my trip. After hearing much about Joan, from my colleagues I was working with that knew her personally, I could not wait to read this book and learn more about her absolutely amazing life. While I did not find the book ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, 2009
The first part was awesome; the dashing Roots' idyllic, storybook early partnership in glorious wild Africa was almost unbearably atmostpheric and romantic, with all that skinnydipping in rivers, and sleeping under the stars (scorpion bite on her wedding night and all). But oh wow, that last third was a catalog of woes that was sooooo depressing, as Joan Root can't have the children she wants due to an illness that nearly paralyses her, gets left by the husband she so desperately loves, pines ov ...more
Oct 19, 2009 Trish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, africa, animals
I sped-read this when it came out because I'm a sucker for books about understanding the capacities of wild animals. It also had sexy come-ons: beautiful woman, murder, safari photography. But I thought it thin, and the mystery of this woman's life felt unresolved. I got a picture of a woman, a marriage, and of a career filming animals in the wild, but it all felt pieced together and voyeuristic. Perhaps she knew how difficult it was for people to get past her beauty to her accomplishments--she ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And excellent tribute to Joan's life and her filmmaking with her husband and a very personal look at the disillusion of her marriage. There is also the wonderful and terrible description of what is happening to the land and water in Africa. It definitely made me want to read more on conservation and ecology in Africa.

The only disappointment for me was that the last part that discussed her murder and the case surrounding her murder was unsatisfying. I understand that the murder was never solved,
Amy Bourret
Aug 24, 2009 Amy Bourret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Seal's first book provides an intriguing portrait of a fascinating woman and an informative look at Kenyan life. As important, it exposes a critical concern for conservationists, environmentalists and anyone who cares even a little for our earth and its wildlife -- the rose industry. We hear about Fair Trade coffees, teas and textiles, but how many of us think about what goes into getting those stacks of roses to supermarkets? Sometimes a rose isn't just a rose. Oh, and WILDFLOWER is a well ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done investigative biography of a woman & the events of her murder. Fascinating insight into the culture of Kenya & the political climate of the country. Joan Root tries to make the world a better place. A well written steady story.

2 of my favorite quotes:
"Join the mob or go for what you want. Give yourself plenty of quiet time alone in order to get intouch with who you are..Focus power of thought. Remind yourself that the world is yours for the asking. The non-risker does not grow,
Sarah-Kate Lynch
Joan Root worked most of her life trying to conserve Kenya's beautiful Lake Naivasha, one the shores of which she lived and this book is the story of her intriguing life and horribly brutal death.
An absolute bombshell, Joan married her soul mate,Alan Root, when she was in her early twenties and they spent the next two decades making wildlife films and documentaries that helped spark the global interest in conservation. Alan saw the writing on the wall years before anyone else and knew it was i
Luisa Pinheiro
"Na África Selvagem" é um desses livros de não-ficção que só se sustenta pela história original. A vida da queniana Joan Root foi tão interessante que não percebemos de cara os defeitos na estrutura do livro e na narrativa, que muitas vezes chega a ser piegas e repetitiva.

Sem contar que se percebe claramente como é falha a apuração da vida de Joan depois do divórcio. Como ela deu poucas entrevistas a jornalistas, Mark Seal não soube construir um bom texto apenas com os diários de Joan e depoime
Rachel Wilson
Mar 06, 2015 Rachel Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joan Root was not a familiar name to me. I had never heard it spoken. I found this book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble while mindlessly picking up books, and I realized I had to know more about this amazing woman of whom I'd never heard of. I have always been fascinated with Africa. And...animals. Those passions are brought together in this fantastic account of the life of Joan Root. Joan married Alan Root, and they spent years filming the wildlife in Africa. Joan had an uncanny ability to w ...more
May 30, 2014 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, biography
TITLE: Wildflower
DATE READ: 05/18/14
RATING: 4.5/B+
GENRE/PUB DATE/PUBLISHER/# OF PGS: Bio/2009/Random House/212 pgs
TIME/PLACE: 1960's - 2004
CHARACTERS: Joan Root -- wildlife filmmaker

FIRST LINES: " One can only imagine what British colonialists felt when they first sailed from chilly & proper England to hot, exotic Kenya."
COMMENTS: Fascinating look at the life of wildlife filmmaker Joan Root. For years Joan worked w/ her husband on wildlife films, mos
Aug 21, 2013 Redheadedsusie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was a fascinating book. I was absolutely in awe of this woman, so interesting and such courage. I could not understand why she couldn't cut the two timing husband loose. She was really the brains behind the documentaries that she did with her husband Alan. also, a good look at the corruption and poverty in Africa. If you like adventure novels, you will like this book.
An extraordinary life that could have been better served. I was right to be worried about the sentimental title and put off by the emotive opening featuring the longed for return of her exhusband. The biography did include some interesting information about the wildlife films and some evocative passages from her journals and letters.
Jun 16, 2014 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting story about Joan Root and the contributions she made, with her husband Alan Root, and on her own to the cause of conservation and wildlife preservation, primarily in Africa and Kenya, but also around the world. It also chronicles her contribution to pioneering work in documentation of nature and wildlife in both motion picture and photography. Combining their excellence and passion for both film making and wildlife, they were able to be among the first to document nature a ...more
Jun 28, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I heard the author interviewed on NPR and decided to read about this extraordinary women. I don't remmeber her death but am glad I now am aware of her and will pay more attention to conservation efforts in Africa.
Sep 13, 2010 Kristine rated it really liked it
Wow what a amazing life Joan led. I devoured this book in a single day. I'm surprised she wasn't more famous although Seal explains why in the book.

Wildflower is the story of Joan Root. Raised in Kenya by parents who eventually started a photo safari business, she made, with her husband, Alan Root, some of the first and best-known wildlife documentaries--mainly of Africa, but also the Galapagos and other places. They traveled in the small social world of British East Africa. Theirs were the first British-produced nature films to show on American television. They led Diane Fossey up the mountain to study the gorillas they had filmed. They li ...more
Mar 03, 2016 Meghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How much do you know about Africa, truly? If you think, "Something about diamonds, and poverty," then this book will help illuminate other conflicts that you may not have considered. Africa is a country where no one is at fault but everyone is to blame, including possibly Joan Root herself when it comes to her untimely death. Her life story is admirable, and what she accomplished helps highlight an often misunderstood country. Mark Seal thoroughly researches and narrates her life and sad demise, ...more
Saleena Davidson
This book was one I grabbed out of pure curiosity. It's about the murder of Joan Root, a famous conservationist, in her home in Kenya. She and her husband Alan made many important documentaries about wildlife in Africa and the writer Mark Seal does a great job of both introducing the Roots but also explaining society and what is happening in the world around them as well. I found it an intriguing and yet sad story. If you like or are fascinated by the world at large and conservationists or anyth ...more
Apr 27, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This book was an interesting story set in Kenya ,and told the tale of Joan and Alan Root, who met and married very quickly . They both loved Kenya and all the wildlife there . They had a good head for business,and also were very strong believers in keeping Africa the way it was as long as possible . They started a business,having safari groups come over ,and they took them to the areas where the animals lived to take photos of them ,instead of allowing them to hunt and kill them .
They also began
Sep 28, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s you would be aware of the work of the Root’s as they did a lot of the filming for a programme called Survival, a weekly wildlife programme on the ATV network. This was the first time animals were actually filmed and studied in the wild not in some staged wildlife film. This was also the era many people started buying colour TVs specifically to see these documents. Alan Root was a daredevil photographer/ filmmaker who travelled over East Africa filming wild ani ...more
Amanda Morgan
Jun 25, 2014 Amanda Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When journalist Mark Seals came across a story about the mysterious murder of African conservationist Joan Root he contacted her ex-husband wildlife filmmaker Alan Root to find any information he could about Joan. Alan was most forthcoming, giving Seals access to letter, diaries, photographs, the names of Joan’s friends, even inviting Seals to Joan’s memorial service.
What transpired from all that information and research is Seals’ biography of Joan Root’s life, “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Lif
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Joan's loyalty to Lake Naivasha 6 19 Apr 07, 2012 07:18PM  
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A journalist for thirty-five years, Mark Seal is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa, about the murdered wildlife filmmaker and naturalist Joan Root. Seal was a 2010 National Magazine Award finalist for his Vanity Fair profile of Clark Rockefeller.

He lives in Aspen, Colorado.
More about Mark Seal...

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“Join the mob or go for what you want. Give yourself plenty of quiet time alone in order to get in touch with who you are...Focus power of thought. Remind yourself that the world is yours for the asking. The non-risker does not grow, you just get older. When you have decided which ideas, beliefs, relationships, and situations no longer work for you, it is time to release them. Let go of negative thoughts - view them as a flight of birds crossing your path. See them fly into view and continue on their way.' - from Joan Root's diary” 4 likes
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