Friday, November 30, 2012

The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

by Elspeth Huxley, 288 pages

The author describes her early life on a Kenyan coffee farm with her parents in the years leading up to the first World War.

I watched the mini-series adaptation of this autobiography on Masterpiece Theatre when I was little and always meant to go back and read the book.  It's a fascinating look at the political, economic, and social issues of the period, especially as they pertain to race, as well as the physical and emotional struggles of starting a coffee farm from scratch in a world far-removed from one's own.  Huxley--who was just five at the time her adventurous but ill-prepared family moved to Thika in 1912--presents her story with a surprisingly non-judgmental perspective, observing without interpreting the actions and events she witnesses, acknowledging the faults of her contemporaries while focusing on the smaller-scale challenges, sorrows, and joys of day-to-day life in a land she has clearly grown to love (building a house, growing coffee, avoiding dangerous ants, hunting cheetahs, rescuing injured animals, negotiating with employees and neighbors of diverse backgrounds, and navigating the often-tumultuous currents of local, state, and world politics), resulting in a tale that has become a melding of cultural anthropology and personal history.

No comments:

Post a Comment