Susan's Reviews > Out of Africa

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
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"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills... It was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent... In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be."
- from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa was not exactly what I expected. I went into reading it thinking that it was a traditional memoir, but it is actually a series of lyrical vignettes describing the life of Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen in Africa. Written sometime after she left Africa, the stories contained in Out of Africa reflect the distance Dinesen was able to put between herself and much of the hardship she suffered as a first-time coffee farmer in Kenya.

Among my favorite of her stories were the accounts of "Kamanate and Lulu." In the four stories included in this first part of Out of Africa, Dinesen describes her efforts to cure a young native boy who has a debilitating illness, and to adopt an orphaned bushbuck fawn, probably destined for someone's dinner table.

From the beginning, it is clear that Dinesen has a sense of humility where the native Africans were concerned, that is practically unheard of in other white colonists of her time. Her strong feelings for the native people and the harsh beauty of the land surrounding her farm is obvious to the reader. As she struggles to better understand the Kikuyu, Masai and Somali people, she comes to the realization that despite being dependent on them, she will never truly "know" them. This notwithstanding, she never stops admiring them, and learns a great deal from them in her time.

Isak Dinesen wrote beautifully of her love for Africa and it's people. Her stories are delicate and enthralling, and sweep you up in the words and imagery they contain. The language she uses is luminous, and her descriptions of the people and animals of East Africa are simply magical. Out of Africa is exquisitely written and will keep you turning pages late into the night.

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Quotes Susan Liked

Karen Blixen
“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.”
Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Karen Blixen
“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”
Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa I love her writing. Looking forward to your review on this one as I haven't read it yet.

Susan I'm taking a page out of another reviewer's bag of tricks and reading a biography of Dinesen along with Out of Africa. I'm hoping if I read them together I'll get the whole story.

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