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Elspeth Huxley: A Biography Hardcover – July 28, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first biography of British writer and conservationist Huxley (1907-1997), author of several novels (The Flame Trees of Thika), memoirs and travel pieces, is lively and well researched. Leaving Huxley in England, her parents moved to Kenya in 1912, where, as members of Britain's white settler community, they struggled to run a coffee plantation. Huxley was sent for the next year, and she spent her childhood and adolescence hunting, playing polo, going on safaris and participating in other such colonial activities. Huxley left Africa in 1925 to attend college in England and the U.S., but returned periodically to visit her parents and do research. Nicholls plumbs Huxley's personal and published papers for detail, creating skillful illustrations of character and setting. Describing an elderly Huxley, she writes: "Without vanity, she wore clothes of muted colours, often tweeds, and liked brown jerseys. She usually wore trousers rather then dresses and her hair, for which she cared little, was cut short in a pudding-basin shape." Still, when it comes to considering Huxley's work in a larger, social context, Nicholls is both an apologist and a rationalist. She glosses over thorny issues of race and colonialism, concluding that while Huxley has been criticized for her lack of social awareness, she should be congratulated for her honesty and ability to change her views with the times: "she knew that the Empire would soon be destroyed by those it was supposed to be helping, and by a British government that found it an expensive anachronism in a new liberal age." In the end, this is a solid exploration of a deserving and challenging subject.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Nicholls' account of [the Huxley's marriage] adds another sphere of interest to a life that already has more than its share of fascinating facets. Nicholls...bears the unusual distinction of having served as editor of Britain's prestigious Dictionary of National Biography. Thus it is not surprising to find that she is a judicious, intelligent biographer who brings to her enterprise grace, balance, and deftness."
San Francisco Chronicle

"C.S. Nicholls offers a robust account of who's who in Huxley's novels."
LA Times

"[An] accomplished biography...Nicholls probes with great sensitivity Huxley's literary and emotional attachment to Africa...and her complex and evolving views towards it and British rule there."
Atlantic Monthly

"The biography is extremely strong when the author paints an insightful and propitious picture that enables readers to better understand bygone eras. The book is well written and will keep readers interested in a proficient, but not popular, defender of the crown."
Harriet Klausner Reviews

"This first biography of British writer and conservationist Huxley...is lively and well researched...Nicholls plumbs Huxley's personal and published papers for detail, creating skillful illustrations of character and setting...[T]this is a solid exploration of a deserving and challenging subject."
Publishers Weekly

"A sturdy biography...the first such work devoted to [Huxley]. Nicholls gives a good account of Huxley’s life and work...A worthwhile glimpse into European colonialism and its literary chroniclers."
Kirkus Reviews

“There is no doubt that this is a complete portrait of a brave and remarkable woman.”
The Tablet [U.K.]


There is no doubt that this is a complete portrait of a brave and remarkable woman. (The Tablet [U.K.])

"C.S. Nicholls offers a robust account of who's who in Huxley's novels." (LA Times)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (July 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312300417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312300418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent book, very well written with many interesting facts about Elsbeth Huxley, early British settlers in Kenya, her family and other well-known people who settled in Kenya. It explains much about the writing life of EH and about women writers in the 1920, 30's and up to the time of her death
in 1997. She had a diversified career as an author, journalist and broadcaster etc. and it's history is told here in detail. It is a very good book.
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Format: Hardcover
Having loved The Flame Trees of Thika (both book and PBS Masterpiece Theater series), I eagerly awaited this biography of author, conservationist, and defender of colonialist England -and for the most part it doesn't disappoint. Huxley is a difficult subject to pin down politically, as her opinions shifted with the tide of the changing times. She lived through the fall and failure of the colonial period, and her best and most loving writing comes from the era when it was in full bloom: the period around both sides of the First World War. As an old woman (she lived to age 90) in the mid 90s, she still held to some of her beliefs concerning the benefits of English rule of Africa.
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By A Customer on September 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
With Liberia making headlines as to send or not to send that is the president's question (it only took fourteen years and three administrations to get to that point), a biography on Elspeth Huxley, known for her writings on Africa, seems timely. The book provides a fascinating glimpse of what seems like an archaic philosophy today, but only a few decades ago was acceptable. C.S. Nicholls analyzes Huxley's vast works that for the most part defend the English dominant position in much of Africa throughout the first half of the twentieth century.
The biography is extremely strong when the author paints an insightful and propitious picture that enables readers to better understand bygone eras. Huxley lived for most of the century (1907-1997) and what she supported through her writings has been one of the key factors that later led to much of the devastation that the continent has faced since the 1960s and 1970s independence movements succeeded. The only flaw is that author C.S. Nicholls rationalizes Huxley's defense of white colonialism, turning the biographer into an apologist rather than being a historiographer and thereby placing Huxley in a wider social text. Still the book is well written and will keep readers interested in a proficient, but not popular defender of the crown.
Harriet Klausner
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