Jun 01, 12
Read on May 12, 2012
** spoiler alert **
Um - okay. I did think this was a good, solid book about an intriguing character, with solid description. It also moved quickly. Why three stars, then? Basically, if I could, I would give it 3 and 1/2 stars. The writing was good, and the story worth telling. But, as others have said, the parts about Beryl's childhood in Kenya are far more compelling than those describing her flight across the Atlantic. I pretty much skipped these in order to get back to the "real" story, and I'm sure that was not the author's intention! Also, while reading Beryl's childhood story, I found myself disliking her. Yes, she's an admirable character in many ways - a brave, active young girl growing up between two societies that, in their different ways, limit women. Beryl finds a way to take a "boy's/man's" role in each of her societies - British and African Nandi. All that is well and good, but, unfortunately, Beryl seems to have nothing but contempt for more traditional or conservative women. Her stepmother offers her nothing but kindness, and Beryl is never anything but hostile to her. She also treats the women of the Nandi tribe with contempt, and doesn't understand the mild reproof of a school friend when she is sent to boarding school. Beryl, as written, is very much a "shield maiden", lacking introspection or empathy. She does have great loyalty, determination, and physical courage, and she has many obstacles to overcome. Young people who love action and adventure and can tolerate some graphic violence* will enjoy this fast-moving and well researched story.
* In one scene, 11-year-old Beryl batters her father's pet baboon to death after it attacks her little stepbrother - after she has urged him to play with the animal. She does realize that she is at fault, but doesn't really seem to learn anything from the incident.