Out of Africa was first published in 1937, after the author's return to Denmark. Shadows on the Grass consists of four more essays. The first three we Out of Africa was first published in 1937, after the author's return to Denmark. Shadows on the Grass consists of four more essays. The first three were written in the 1950s and the last, titled 'Echoes from the Hills', was written in the 60s. They just add a few more details about events and characters mentioned in the original book.
The movie Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, was produced and directed by Sydney Pollack. It was based not only on Blixen's Out of Africa, but also Judith Thurman's Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller, Errol Trzebinski's Silence Will Speak and Blixen's Letters from Africa, 1914-1931. The movie and Out of Africa / Shadows on the Grass are quite different. The movie is best classified as a couple's love story! The book, if it is to be classified as a love story, is of a love between a woman and a land, Africa, more specifically the Kenyan highlands and the Ngong Hills, southwest of Nairobi where she had her coffee farm. She moved here in 1914 after marriage to her Swedish second-cousin, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke. She remained almost eighteen years, running the farm alone after she and her husband were divorced in 1925. Much of her writing is under the pen name of Isak Dinesen, her father being the Dane Wilhelm Dinesen.
This book is not an autobiography of her life. She writes of the land and the people on her farm. She says very little about family or her personal relationships, except those with her workers. In fact not one word is mentioned of her husband, and very little about her lover, the English big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton. What you are told is of his airplane crash in 1931 and of his burial on her land. In fact you do learn who she was by following her thoughts and what she does. The book is more a set of essays on events that occurred on the farm and her relationship with Kikuyus, Somalis and the nomadic Maasai. It is not complete and it is not told in chronological order. One whole section is devoted to short, short tales about animals, about African folklore and about customs. These read as fables, each with a message. She loved the Africans for their stories! She is a lovely storyteller herself. She writes about the way the Africans honor that which is written, by relating amusing stories. You learn about traditions, the dances and festivals, clothing and food. This is a book about the African world she lived in, and it is beautifully, lyrically described - particularly the landscapes, the air, the views. She is also adept at “seeing” animals. They are not merely furred beasts. They have souls. They have personalities. Her stories about animals are funny and moving, and will appeal to all animal lovers.
I was brought to tears, not when Denys died, but when she had to leave Kenya. The farm failed; it was a hopeless endeavor.
I cannot give this more than three stars. Some sections are hard to follow. Some sections are overly philosophical, but the real problem I had is of how she speaks of “the natives” in a paternalistic, if not racist tone. I do understand that this was the era of colonialism. She respects the "natives", some of them at least, and she acknowledges the wisdom and abilities they have and which Whites often lack, but she doesn't see them as equals. She looks down on them. She sees them with condescension. This disturbed me; I am of a different era! In the beginning sections I wasn’t sure if I was simply misinterpreting her words, but her outlook became blatantly evident in her first essay of Shadows on the Grass, the one entitled Farah.
The narration of the audiobook by Susan Lyons was excellent. The author writes of her African life having returned to Denmark. Sections are nostalgic in tone and Lyons reading reflects this. Clear and easy to understand. After a humorous line she pauses. You have a chance to think and then smile. ...more
I LIKE my three star books. I recommend them to others. I think in fact others may enjoy this book more than I did. It is very much a love story. I alI LIKE my three star books. I recommend them to others. I think in fact others may enjoy this book more than I did. It is very much a love story. I also gave the author’s The Paris Wife three stars, but Circling the Sun is in fact better. There is an epilogue where the author reveals that she too was separated from her mother at an early age, just as Beryl here. You can feel this connection in the writing.
What the book does tremendously well is draw Kenya - the landscape and the social climate of the expatriate community at the beginning of the 1900s. I liked learning about WW1 in Kenya. I felt Beryl's and Karen Blixen's love for Kenyan soil - the land, the vistas, the air, the fauna. All this becomes tangible through the author's descriptions. Beryl was the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Kenya. Her love for horses shines throughout the book. You feel her enthusiasm for the race - not the money, not the prestige but her love of the animal and her sense of accomplishment to achieve what she set out to do. There is much more about this than her love of flying. (See below.) You learn who Beryl was, what pulls her, what motivates her. By the book's end you also understand what she couldn't do, what she lacked.
She could not (view spoiler)[relate to her lovers, and there are several! Primarily because the one she loved most (Denys Finch Hatton) wasn't accessible. Denys was a free-spirit, like her, but I do believe Beryl would have married him if she could have. There are other reasons too. The social milieu of the expat community to which she belonged abounded with extramarital love affairs. Her inability to connect to others must also have been shaped by her mother's early desertion. In the book, very little is explored concerning her father's decision to move to Cape Town, and subsequently her hurried first marriage. How good a father was he? What were the psychological consequences of this for Beryl? We are only told how much she adored him. (hide spoiler)]
People said to her she lacked fear. She replied she was filled with fear, but she did not give up. I agree. She had great strength. Her fear doesn't show in the book because she would not let it show in real life. When I came to understand the grit of this woman, I also came to understand her floundering behavior with men, which bothered me in the middle of the book.
Still, only three stars. This is because I prefer biographies...and I am giving the stars. Large parts of Beryl Markham’s life are only briefly covered. So much is lacking. The book essentially stops (view spoiler)[when the love of her life is killed in a plane crash (hide spoiler)]. There is not one bit of humor. Not one smidgen.
The narration by Katharine McEwan was good, but her voice fits better the young naive Beryl of her youth rather than the determined woman she came to be. It was slow, which I like. Sometimes I could not distinguish every word clearly.
My thoughts after listening to only a few chapters:
I will say this Circling the Sun sgrabs your attention from the very first pages. It starts off with Beryl (Clutterbuck)Markham's solo flight over the Atlantic in 1936. She was the first woman to do this, flying east to west. This is harder than west to east because you have to fly against the prevailing Atlantic winds. In 1932 a Scot, Jim Mollison, had flown solo from east to west. His intention was to fly from Dublin to NY, but was forced to land in New Brunswick, Canada. Nevertheless, he DID make the first westward solo flight over the Atlantic. Beryl Markham's perilous flight is in the prologue, then it immediately switches to the scene where Beryl, at the age of five is left alone with her father, her mother and older brother having departed back to England. It is dramatic and heartfelt. Only when she receives a box of licorice from her Mom does she realize she is not coming back. The Kipsigis Kenyan tribe near her father's farm metaphorically speaking "takes her in". You immediately sense the child's personality being molded by the desertion of her mother, the determination and will of her father and the native Kenyans. You parallel her native African upbringing with her desire to conquer the skies. Kenya is wonderfully described and you feel for the child.
Could the book possibly remain this engaging?!
The beginning at least is even better than the author'sThe Paris Wife. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Enjoyable and informative, definitely worth reading if you are curious to know more about the Mau Mau Rebellion 1952-1960 which lead to Kenyan IndepenEnjoyable and informative, definitely worth reading if you are curious to know more about the Mau Mau Rebellion 1952-1960 which lead to Kenyan Independence from Britain in 1963. Laid before you are the author's childhood memories up to his acceptance and arrival at high school. He is today a famed, contemporary African writer. This book focuses upon his quest for education, something all too many of us take for granted. It is about native Kenyan life. He was born in 1938, the fifth child of his father's third wife. Twenty-four siblings, four mothers, what is it like to be one in a polygamous family? You learn about life as one of the Kikuyu ethnic group in colonial Africa. Their land was taken from them, not once, but four times. Their culture was denied. There is a lot of history here, and it is not always told linearly. Furthermore the names are difficult, more so if you are listening to it as an audiobook. The narration by Hakeem Kai-Kazim is at times difficult to follow, particularly when the trial of Jomo Kenyatta is related with an angry tone, in an effort to emphasize the injustice of the events. I had to look on Wiki (Mau Mau Upprising and Jomo Kenyatta) to fully understand the scattered events splayed before me. It helped to see the names, to tie up the different threads. The book gives more depth than just reading at Wiki. What was his life like? How was it to have one brother as a Mau Mau rebel and another supporting the colonials? And what is it like to fight for the right to an education, to achieve that when you have no food, no shoes, no books and sometimes no light at all to work by. He succeeded. He didn't just succeed, he succeeded magnificently. His mother always asked him, "Is that your best?"
The prime message of this book is clear. Look at the title. In times of "war", we must have dreams to survive. ...more
I have assorted thoughts on this book. First of all the language is detached, polite, oh so proper British English, quite different from how AmericansI have assorted thoughts on this book. First of all the language is detached, polite, oh so proper British English, quite different from how Americans express themselves. The "Britishness" is reflected not only in word pronunciation but also in the choice of words, the views presented and the life style of the family, of clear colonial stock. I am listening to the audiobook and the narration by Virginia McKenna emphasizes this. It kind of bugs me a bit. Maybe the "Britishness" of the narration perfectly depicts the "Britishness" of the author, so I am unsure whether this is a fair criticism. Even for me the narration is slow! Others will definitely have to increase the speed. The narrator puts too much emotion into her reading.
There is quite a bit about the policies of animal protection in Kenya, about natural selection, authorized culling versus poaching and how the entire ecosystem affects wildlife. This is pretty interesting. This is related to both politics and history too. The Mau Mau Rebellion is covered, as well as the independence of Kenya. Here again one is given the English colonial point of view! To me this seems rather one-sided.
I was getting a little bit annoyed, because I wanted to hear about her relationships with the orphaned animals! That is what primarily attracted me to the book. Luckily, in the second half, there is quite a bit more about the animals. Elena and Gregory Peck and Bunty and others have joined the story, so now I am not grumbling any more. I love the antics of these animals, but don't be fooled, the book is an even balance between animal stories and a history of the protection of wildlife in Kenya.
There is also quite a bit about the author's love for her second husband....while she was still married to the first! With the "Britishness", with everything having to be so properly correct, the duplicity was a bit jarring. Her second husband is David Sheldrick, the David Sheldrick of the Kenyan David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. At times this book felt like it was written in support of this trust. At times it read as a eulogy for David.
What I enjoy most is learning about the animals! They are very special. How do they communicate? How do they understand? Telepathy? I don't know..... It is hard to find a logical explanation....more
In conclusion: The ending is cute, but with this final note I haven't given anything away. It is how you get from A to Z that is importaNO SPOILERS!!!
In conclusion: The ending is cute, but with this final note I haven't given anything away. It is how you get from A to Z that is important. A perfect comfort read, if that is what you are looking for. Please see below for more detailed information.
AFTER 80%: What I like about GR is that we help each other find books that will fit our own interests. No matter how much effort I put into studying a book before I choose it, each book is always a bit of a surprise. This one too. Please look at the shelves I have put this on: fauna, humorous, kenya and relationships. Yes, those are the central themes. You do learn a bit about Kenyan life and history, but what is given is minimal. Much is related to expat life in Kenya, and quite honestly this isn't my highest interests, but there are native Kenyans too and Iheir presence in the book is a saving point for me. It is humorous and a light, quick read. It helps if you are interested in learning more about birds. Does the following bore you or interest you?
Kenyan crested guineafowl are shy and wary birds. They stick to one patch of forest, where they know every twig and track. It is next to impossible to creep up on one to shoot or grab it. But they possess great curiosity, and nothing incites their curiosity more than the colour blue. I have never seen this for myself but I am assured by my friend Kennedy that he has watched a Kenyan crested guineafowl staring at an empty pack of Clear Sky cigarettes for minutes at a time. Should you want to trap one of these birds, therefore, the best bait to use is not grain or fruit or anything that the bird might eat, but simply something blue. (80%)
I assume thisinformation is correct.... But what is important is for you to judge if this is interesting or not!
One more thing. this is not much about the antics of bird-walkers. This book is more about how one properly conducts a contest. That can be amusing too. And about how people can tackle a contest so very differently. Winning is important, but but how we win is too.
I haven't read more than 9%, and I don't really want to be talking to you. I would rather be reading. It is just that the lines are so funny! I am smiling on most every page. This is the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor I enjoy.
Mr. Mali, is currently in Scotland. First his wife dies and his head is rapidly balding and to top it all off he has a heart attack. So his daughter gets him an appointment with a cardiologist, and what does the cardiologist say?
'You need a hobby. Something to take your mind off work - it's stress that does it you see. '
The eminent cardiologist savoured the word. Up until only last year he would have said 'overdoing it' and he still wasn't sure whether that phrase was a bit more Harley Street, but everyone seemed to use 'stress' these days and it was good practice to keep up with modern develpments. Patients expected it.
Is your appreciation of humor similar to mine? The doctor suggests birding, and with fright Malik thinks he means he has to get a new wife or "revitalize himself through prophylactic prostitution! " No,the doctor is suggesting ornithology. So Malik buys himself some binoculars.
BEFORE STARTING: My son is an ornithologist. I have been on numerous "bird walks". These walks are quite amusing if you step back and look at yourself and the group. Tongue in cheek humor?! A fun read probably because you remember past experiences? Are these excurions so different if they take place in Nairobi or Sweden? It is not the birds, but we humans who are amusing. ...more
Years ago I read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I loved it. I have been very foolish in not picking up this book sooner. YouYears ago I read Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I loved it. I have been very foolish in not picking up this book sooner. You do not need to read both, but I would highly recommend it. This is “awful book number two”, as the author’s Mom would call it. The two books are about the author’s family, their time in “Central Africa”, that is to say Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The reason why I really love these books, and I love both of them, is that the writer talks about hardships you cannot imagine, and she does it with humor. In addition you learn about life in the African countries named. You learn through the experiences of this family. If you have read the first book, you simply must read this, the second “awful book”, because it clearly shows why the mother is who she is - in all the wonderful and hopeless and horrible details.
I listened to the audiobook. I want you to taste the humor and style of writing. Please go to the link here and click on the sample button below the audiobook at the Audible site: http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_3?... I want you to test and see if you enjoy her particular style. That is why I have included the link.
So…. I loved the author’s writing style. I loved the humor. What else did I love? Why was it that I could not stop listening? Beside that I though the history of colonial overthrow was expertly woven into the story, and that isn’t so strange since the family lived through these events, it was the understanding of who her mother was that I loved most. Maybe this sounds a little strange, but I like reading books to understand people. I like reading books to understand life, and life throws whoppers at all of us. Doesn’t it? Life is throwing whoppers at this family from day one to the very, very end.
And finally, I feel that the author has a wonderful way of relating to her annoying, ever so self-assured mother. I came to understand that mother and I came to admire the author’s ability to accept her mother for who she is. You have to read the books, both books in fact, to understand. I not only learned historical facts, but I also learned on a personal level how one should/could relate to a strong, some times terribly annoying Mom. Here is a link to my review of the earlier book: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
ETA: I forgot to tell you: if you love animal stories, then this is another reason to read the book. It is filled with stories about the family’s pets. ...more