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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Happy Valley is a book that you won't want to put down as it takes you through the many adventures of the colorful colonialists who came to Kenya. Its strength is that it is a riveting work that captures the main events of an incredible story. Its main weakness is that it sometimes lacks depth, but it remains a great introduction to a most fascinating subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume ..... The book covers several episodes in the colonial history of Kenya. It's not suitable for research historians, but it will entertain you on a flight or on the beach. Some of the anecdotes will make you laugh till you cry.
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on January 25, 2015
Format: Paperback
‘Nicholas Best tells an immensely entertaining tale’ – Max Hastings, Evening Standard
‘An erudite, amusing and, even, gossipy book’ – Nigel Dempster, Punch
‘Anyone with experience of Kenya, past or present, resident or tourist, will enjoy reading Happy Valley’ – Country Life
‘First class… quite hilariously funny’ – Melbourne Herald

If one were to believe the views of the above "distinguished" reviewers one would certainly buy it. I receved my copy as Christmas present and have just read it on a beach in Antigua -- what it was apparently designed for. It is not immensely entertaining. It is certainly not erudite but yes it is gossipy (anecdotal). Anyone with experience of Kenya has read all this elsewhere before and will not find it very enjoyable -- very soon I was anticipating the next hoary old tale and was seldom disappointed. Not funny at all let alone hilariously so.

A more energetic editor/publisher would have have checked many of the statements in the book. There was no rinderpest in Masailand in 1883 -- the cattle were dying of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and rinderpest did not arrive in Kenya until at least five years later. A Duke of Portlan never served in the Kenya administration nor supported the settlers -- a future Duke did. Probably very few of the settler were strong in the arm and thick in the head and certainly none that I knew. Much credence is given to Meinhertzhagen throughout much of the book yet it is now well accepted that he was a romancer if not an out and out teller of untruths. And so on and so on. If you want to know more about Kenya read some of the source books -- your money will be better spent.
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on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure whether to praise or damn this book. For a start it's actually the story not of the English per se, but of the British and other nationalities who came to Kenya. Secondly, the title seems sensationalist in that it refers to the 'Happy Valleyites' - a very small group of wealthy pre-WW2 wasters, who were in no way representative of the majority of hard-working settlers.

Another criticism is that little mention is made of the colonial administrators who built hospitals, schools, bridges and roads, worked on locust and disease control, and created a working civil service, health service and police force. Perhaps they weren't eccentric enough for the author, who appears to seek out only the colourful and outrageous. He damns the settlers as pigheaded and a bit thick. Pigheaded perhaps (I should know, I went to school with their sons); but on the whole not stupid. Often at great personal cost, they figured out what crops or livestock worked and what didn't, thus pioneering the way for today's farmers in Kenya.

On the positive side the book is indeed entertaining; and in my view it improves in depth and understanding when describing the post WW2 transit to independence, including the difficult time of the Mau Mau insurrection (and it needs to be remembered that Mau Mau killed far more of their own countrymen and women than white people, and arguably contributed nothing towards the progress to independence).

On the whole a worthwhile read, although it falls far short of telling a full and balanced story and Elspeth Huxley's books give a better flavour of this period of Kenya's past.
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on November 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This reads like a fun history book, full of interesting facts about Kenya. It gave me a deeper understanding of the roll Kenya played during the World War I. You get a different perspective of the pioneers who loved and fought for what they believed Kenya would become. History tends to choose it's own path! I was eager to learn more about the Mau Mau and the native people. History is always told from the victors point of view, although in this case it seems Africa is the true conqueror! Africa has a way of seducing you even from the pages of a book, it's no wonder people are still drawn to explore and settle in this wonderful, dangerous place! I enjoyed this book and it was an easy read.
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on October 4, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
My father was one of the italian prisoners of war in a camp near thik, and worked as an engineer with E.A.P.&L. I and mother went with him from italy in1948,and i attended the Hill School,Eldoret 1948 to 1952 with many Africaners,then the Duke of york.We lived near Thika during the mau mau,and went to the cinema in Thika with all our guns as they had to be unavailable in the house. Loss of a gun was prison. This book has stirred many memories and i recalled visits fro the Black Watch,after their Korea war stint, also the Inniskilling Fuseliers. A very well written book with humour and i feel very accurate. Well done and a credit to the coutry.
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on October 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I found this very interesting. I was in Tanzania when Kenya got its Independence and remember some of the tension at that time. I did not realize what an educated man Jomo Kenyatta was. Kenya was still a nice country after Independence but from what I hear about it, the usual greed has reached into the politicians, I especially enjoyed the stories about famous white settlers and the photo of Karen Blixon showing she was not beautiful like Meryl Streep portrayed her in "Out of Africa"!
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on June 25, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Interesting overview, but I would have liked more details. Seems to skip rather quickly through the peak period of English society in the '20s and '30s.
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on June 20, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
As I have traveled to this part of Africa a number of years ago I found this book a treasure of information regarding the European settlement of the area. There is not much remaining in Kenya or Tansania that shows they were ever there although we did visit the Karin Blixen home which has been preserved. Our tour was mostly in the bush but included Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar and Nagoragora crater all mentioned in this book. Back in the early 60's I read a book by Robert Rourk "Something of Value" regarding the Mau Mau uprising which was very grafic but also an explanation of what happened to the European settlement in Kenya so I found this history a further addition to my knowledge of that desperate time. Although this book was a little hard to follow at times as it included such a variety of characters I thought it was quite well written and extremely fascinating. I do recommend it.
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on June 5, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Great book for anyone who would like to know more about the the Brits in Kenya. Despite the title it is not just about the Happy Valley set but also about the white settlement in Kenya from the 1890's-1960s. Great back story for fans of Out of Africa.
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