Out of Africa

I loved the film of Out of Africa, especially the music and photography. And the book is one of those that I've meant to read for some time and never quite got round to doing so. One good thing about the 666 Challenge is that it prompts you to read or re-read books set in exotic places, and has finally got me reading Karen Blixen's original account.

Of course it's important to say that it's very different from the film. Much of the book is a series of short vignettes about people, places, scenes from African life, it wanders chronologically backwards and forwards, occasionally this is confusing, but it actually adds a sense of dreaminess to the book as memory drifts back and forth. The final sections of the book as Blixen's farm collapses are more linear, and much closer to the film.

Karen Blixen moved with her husband to a farm in what was then British East Africa (now Kenya) shortly before the First World War. Her husband is barely mentioned in the book, in fact I wouldn't have been aware of his existence was it not for the film. Blixen concentrates on her friends, her African servants, and the people who live on her land, and most of all on her love of the land itself.

Some of the attitudes are inevitably of their time, the enjoyment of hunting, and some of the references to the Africans themselves feel very odd and sometimes extremely uncomfortable to modern sensibilities, but it's a fascinating tale of a distinct period in history when fortunes were being made and lost in Africa. It's clear that Blixen really loved the country and its peoples, and this shines through. An exhilarating, enthralling read.


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