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The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – February 1, 2000
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In 1913, at the age of six, Elspeth Huxley accompanied her parents from England to their recently acquired land in Kenya, "a bit of El Dorado my father had been fortunate enough to buy in the bar of the Norfolk hotel from a man wearing an Old Etonian tie." The land is not nearly what its seller claimed, but Elspeth's parents are undaunted and begin their coffee plantation. Her mother, a resourceful, adventurous woman, "eager always to extract from every moment its last drop of interest or pleasure," keeps an eye on Elspeth's education but also allows her extensive freedom. Through Elspeth Huxley's marvelous gift for description, early twentieth-century Kenya comes alive with all the excitement and naive insight of a child who watches with eyes wide open as coffee trees are planted, buffaloes are skinned, pythons are disemboweled, and cultures collide with all the grace of runaway trains. With a free-wheeling imagination and a dry wit, she describes the interactions of Kikuyus, Masais, Dutch Boers, Brits and Scots, mixing rapid-fire descriptions with philosophical musings. It is a mixture that suits her land of contrasts and unknowns, where vastly different peoples live and work side by side but rarely come together, like an egg beater whose "the two arms whirled independently and never touched, so that perhaps one arm never knew the other was there; yet they were together, turned by the same handle, and the cake was mixed by both." -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Elspeth Huxley was born in 1907 and spent most of her childhood in Kenya. She wrote novels, detective fiction, biographies, and travel books. She died in 1997.
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Her six year old thinking, energy and expressiveness enliven every page.
She as her parents do accept things and the people as they are. They do not judge nor
proselytize. They are all warm, loving and fun loving people. For the time, eccentrics.
As a matter of fact some of the repartee that flies between Lettice and Tilly, sometimes Tilly and Robin
could have come from a Noel Coward script for the 1920's theatre.
The backdrop and ever looming beauty and terror of the African bush is so rich one can smell it.
And it is so sad to see that in 100 years little has changed between the tribes, the whites and the bush
All surviving, just barely.
postscript: i recently stumbled onto the sequel, 'the mottled lizard', which is seemlessly more of the same great writing. absolutely worth the read if you enjoyed thika.