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Out of Africa / Shadows on the Grass

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  9,998 ratings  ·  384 reviews
Out of Africa tells the story of a farm that the narrator once had in Africa. The farm is located at the foot of the Ngong hills outside of Nairobi, in what is now Kenya. It sits at an altitude of six thousand feet. The farm grows coffee, although only part of its six thousand acres is used for agriculture. The remaining parts of the land are forest and space for the ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published October 23rd 1989 by Vintage (first published 1937)
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An interesting collection of anecdotes from Africa in the early 1900s. It is better than a history book because you get to learn about it from the words of someone who lived it.

The colonialism approach of the time that is seen in the writing can be construed as imperialistic and, at times, racially inappropriate. However, I would say that the author is writing what she knows at the time and never gets malicious to or speaks down about anyone in her story - even if there are undertones that


I was doing a repair to the ceiling when from that elevated position I noticed this slim volume attempting to hide from my hawk like vision, but too late, for I swooped down and caught in in my talons and read it tucked up in my nest. I found it beguiling, lyrical, full of longing, it also reminded me of the Orwell story Shooting An Elephant. I let the book settle over several nights in an attempt to digest it, but perhaps after six months or so it might have worked its way
Nov 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
"There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night. It is as if someone had cried a message to you in one word, and would not repeat it. I stood for some time wondering what it had meant. Nobody could aim at anything at this hour, and, to scare away something, a person would fire two shots or more."

There is some truly beautiful writing in this book.

When describing the land and the wildlife of Africa, Dinesen (i.e. Karen Blixen) truly shines as a writer and I
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Karen Blixen (alias: Isak Dinesen, 1885-1962) has the ability to transport you to the early 20th century Africa. The Africa when there were still herds of zebras and elephants suddenly appearing in the clearing while you are planting or harvesting acres and acres of coffee. As I was leafing the pages of this book, I was doing the inhale-exhale that my wife normally tells me to do whenever we are spending a weekend in a resort far from the polluted Manila. "Inhale exhale. Chance to put fresh air ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it

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
blue-collared mind
Dec 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who love myth, epics and lyrical writing
Shelves: super-classics
I start with the famous paragraph:
"If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"
I almost gasped when I
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I cried four times while reading this book. For the beauty of the writing (fireflies), the sentiment (the zoo animals, lulu) and for gratitude that this woman existed and wrote these words down. It's my favorite type of writing - descriptive and evocative. She is able to make me feel like I am there with her. I think she noticed and felt so much that she had to be a writer.

I also admire her and how she lived her life. This was a strong woman who seemed to keep a sense of innocence that allowed
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
“Between the river in the mellow English landscape and the African mountain ridge, ran the path of this life. ... The bowstring was released on the bridge at Eton, the arrow described its orbit, and hit the obelisk in the Ngong Hills.”
― Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

This is a group read I participated in, and I am certain that I will not be able to do it enough honor with my review in attempting to convey this rich, lyrical and beautiful memoir of Karen Blixen’s years she spent running a coffee
Joe Valdez
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gea Leigh Haff
Shelves: memoirs
Short of booking passage to Nairobi, reading this 1937 memoir of Danish author Karen Blixen (using the pen name Isak Dinesen) who arrived in East Africa in 1914 with her husband in a bid to grow coffee beans, is the next best thing. It might be even be more instructive than visiting Africa as a tourist, as Blixen's vivid and sensual writing makes you feel as if you've lived there.

The Blixens separated in 1921 and it's revealing that the author never mentions her ex-husband or touches on her
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful book. I began reading it three years ago and set it aside in favor of lighter literature, but I resumed it this winter and found that the rich, unhurried prose soothed my spirits and carried me away. Reminiscent of Richard Llewllyn's "How Green Was My Valley", "O.O.A." is a work of love, a sensitive soul's lyrical tribute to a beloved landscape. The passages are often long and I found I needed more stamina than I'm used to in order to keep up with Dinesen's meandering's of ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While there's a lot of colonialist/racist perspective in Karen Blixen's writing in this memoir, there is also a lot of beautiful language, insightful descriptions of people and country, and a wealth of information about a place and time I can barely imagine, so I think the benefits of reading Out of Africa outweigh the downsides. The writing is inconsistent, at times strikingly beautiful, others very ordinary and rather disorganized. It doesn't seem an editor was involved.

Well worth reading
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the volume to read because “Out of Africa” was written in 1937 about Dinesen’s time running her coffee plantation from 1913 to 1931. But “Shadows in the Grass” tells lots of small tales about the same characters in her life and was written decades later (in 1960) with small tales of cross-cultural experience – and some stories of what happened to people that she knew in Kenya.

Unlike her “gothic” and aristocratic style of fiction, these are down-to-earth and more like Hemingway in their
Jun 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) wrote this collection of memories from her time owning and operating a coffee farm in the Ngong Hills. If you're reading this expecting to see the script from Out of Africa, you'll be sorely disappointed. That was my initial expectation but I stuck with the book and as a result, feel like I have a much richer and more detailed picture of life in Kenya in the early 20th century.

Some readers have objected to Blixen's language and description of Kenyans and various
Dec 01, 2013 rated it liked it
The things I learned from reading this book: a spelling on how to say hello (male and female) in Maa (Kimaasai, Maasai language) and also putting to words the feeling I had seeing the beauty of the Maasai women with their shaved heads. As Blixen put it it was so overwhelmingly feminine that having hair seems brutish.

I was just 10 days in Olorgesailie in a mainly Maasai area, when I finished a book I gave it to the younger girls to keep so they could read and practice their English. I did not
Karith Amel
"If I know a song of Africa . . . of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I had had on, or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of Ngong look out for me?" -Out of Africa

"The news of Farah's death to me was
Having not seen the movie or read the book, but remembering hearing about the movie that Out of Africa is one of the greatest love stories ever told I went into the reading thinking just that. I was already picturing Meryl Streep and Robert Redford because of the popularity of the movie (though my movie tie-in copy of the book probably did not help).

It took me 70 pages to realize that there is no specific story here, that the book is Isak Dinesen's (pseudonym for Baroness Karen Blixen) memoirs
A reread, and difficult to rate. Karen Blixen is a marvellous writer who led an interesting life, and this memoir contains absolutely beautiful imagery of Kenya. However, her viewpoint as the aristocratic landowner surrounded by "Natives" is hard to take. She may have been "pro-native", well-meaning and open-minded "for her times", but she was still part of an inherently racist colonialism, and approached the Kenyans as children she was obligated to care for. That she felt great affection for ...more
Yigal Zur
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
great stories from a lady which left her heart in Africa. you can not be not enchanted by her writing.
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: abandoned
This is the most glorious, beautifully written book!! I am reading very slowly to savor it and copying lots of quotations. This is a book to keep forever and read often.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars (liked it)

Out of Africa - 3.5 stars
Shadows on the Grass - 4 stars

I finished this book and liked this two-part edition. I thought the author successfully gave the reader a feel for the native people and culture living in the Kenyan coffee farming area during the early 1900's. I thought she learned quite a bit from the natives and vice versa which is exactly what one would hope to see where individuals from two notably different backgrounds come together (setting aside the overall
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had seen the movie adaptation of this book and loved it for the landscape. It's a poor advertisement for the book. The landscape is still there, but the story is almost completely different. While the movie is very overtly a love story between a man and a woman (and a pretty good one) the book is a love story between a woman and a continent. The man who is her lover in the movie appears in the book, but she never explicitly states that he is her lover, and she certainly never discusses the ...more
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
What a masterpiece. Out of Africa uses poetry for what is essentially a memoir, tells gently of human tragedies large and small, and records a lovely time that seems even to the author to be magical and impossible, yet it is nonfiction.

Isak Dinesen wrote in her second language - English, just as Josseph Conrad did. She used an assumed name, and even in life in her vanity she went by "Baroness Blixen," even though her marriage to the holder of that name was broken and his own claim to the title
As many have, I began this book with the movie in mind. I had seen it a number of years ago and didn't remember much of it, but that the wonderful Meryl Streep and Robert Redford had roles in a movie of Africa. Still, I read the book as one looking for a narrative. Forgive me, all, but I do not usually enjoy reading memoirs in which everyone must pretend that they've lived a life any more spectacular than those that others have lived. Her descriptions were lovely, yes. I felt that I was in ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up after a few years of looking at it on my book shelf, and I had a hard time putting it down. The memoir is organized non-chronologically in a series of stories you can imagine the author telling guests over tea or a glass of wine later in life. The author's tone is at times uncomfortably elitist/arrogant, although I assume you need a very healthy amount of confidence to live the way she did in Africa. Learning her views on race and class in colonial Africa is one of the most ...more
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I really hated the first 3/4 of this book. I didn't like the anecdotal style of writing. I didn't like that there was no chronological order. It read very much like an unpracticed storyteller, "this one thing happened, i'm going to talk about it for 20 pages. but wait, this thing happened before that, and i'll talk about that. i guess i'm going to skip ahead 5 years and tell you this other story, and then go back to the beginning to share a different story." I really disliked that.

I hated the
Ruth Woodman York
I would rate this closer to a 3.5. I liked it very well, but maybe not a "really" liked it. The writing, first off, is beautiful. If I closed my eyes, I could almost feel the hot sun, and smell the grass of the plains of Africa, along with hearing the roar of a lion. This is not a book however for a person seeking high adventure. Living on a coffee farm, it appears, is quite a non-action endeavor. So some parts seemed to lag for me. I have seen some people complain about the racism in this book. ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: imaginative people
This book, while firmly entrenched in a racist colonialist system, is amazing. The writing is gorgeous - vivid, poetic, and unforgettable language that leaves your mind filled with images and landscapes that you'll never experience in real life. I thought this book was wonderful - an impressive account of a woman who was way before her time, very independent. Also an interesting slice of history. It's a fascinating read.
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
After visiting Karen Blixen's home in Kenya, I decided that I had to read this book, even though I did not like the movie that much. I don't even know how they got a movie out of this book. I might have liked it better if I had not read "Circling the Sun" so recently, but I did and this book pales in comparison. It just didn't do it for me.
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I reread this after having visited the site of Karen Blixen's farm near Nairobi. The writing is evocative and absolutely gorgeous, but there's a current of colonial-era era racism that you can't ignore.
Put A Sock In It
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"But the trouble is not as you think now, that we have put up obstacles too high for you to jump, and how could we possibly do that, you great leaper?"
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Pseudonym used by the Danish author Karen Blixen.

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (Danish: [kʰɑːɑn ˈbleɡsn]; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962), born Karen Christenze Dinesen, was a Danish author, also known by the pen name Isak Dinesen, who wrote works in Danish, French and English. She also at times used the pen names Tania Blixen, Osceola, and Pierre Andrézel.
Blixen is best known for Out of
“When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them.” 37 likes
“Circumstances can have a motive force by which they bring about events without aid of human imagination or apprehension. On such occasions you yourself keep in touch with what is going on by attentively following it from moment to moment, like a blind person who is being led, and who places one foot in front of the other cautiously but unwittingly. Things are happening to you, and you feel them happening, but except for this one fact, you have no connection with them, and no key to the cause or meaning of them. [...] - a passage outside the range of imagination, but within the range of experience.” 10 likes
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