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Breath of Africa Paperback – 29 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd (29 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909841994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909841994
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Bwye lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she went to school, and brought up her large family.
Her first novel, Breath of Africa, took forty years to gestate, and draws on her experiences growing up in the country she still calls her home.
The novella, I Lift Up My Eyes, is utterly different, as she needed a break from Africa but wanted to keep on writing.
A world traveller, she buys a bird book in every country she visits. Now living in the UK, she indulges her love for choral singing, horses, tennis, bridge, and walking.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By r j askew on 12 Aug. 2013
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Kenya is a fascinating country. In some ways it is a young country having only gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s. Yet is is also at the heart of a region to which we may all owe our origins. In that respect it is the most ancient of places.

Jane Bwye's Breath of Africa is quintessentially a novel of place and time, set in Kenya from the 1950s, when there was a vicious rebellion against British rule and tracing the lives of two young women as they grow up and face a range of personal challenges and setbacks as they and the country that has shaped their young lives come of age.

Although BREATH OF AFRICA is a historical novel it feels very young. The story commences with the two girls breaking out of their school at night to go on a wild horse ride, while Mau Mau rebels skulk in the darkness intending them harm.

Some of the issues feel very modern also. There is an inter-racial relationship and race features when Charles, a talented young black man finds himself struggling to cope with life at Oxford University. The nastier side of white settler prejudice are also captured. But not all the whites are like this. Some opt to stay when British rule ends because they love the country and feel themselves to be as much a part of it as the Africans.

Caroline is a stayer, literally. She abandons her chance to go to Oxford, marries, loses her husband, decides to make her future in the new Kenya.

But the new Kenya is not a place of innocence and forgiveness. Caroline's life becomes entangled in a Mau Mau curse which dogs her childhood friend. We read of malevolence and irrational yet powerful superstition. This is at odds with Caroline's strong Christianity and plain good sense.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kristin Gleeson on 2 May 2013
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This novel follows thirty years of Kenya's history beginning at the critical turning point of the Mau Mau rebellion through the newly fledged independence up until the early 80s after the years of Kenyatta's presidency. It is an ambitious sweep viewed through the eyes of Caroline, a privileged white woman and Charles, an African who seeks to break out of the role of agricultural worker to attend Oxford and become part of Kenya's promising future. Through these to contrasting viewpoints we learn of the complexity of this time period, that there is not one truly right position or story. That is the power of this novel and the truly magical backdrop of a country that casts a spell on many.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Swizzlestick on 3 Jun. 2013
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An interesting read. Having lived in Kenya for 20 years, Breath of Africa brought back so many memories, and waves of nostalgia. Many of the situations she described I lived through myself.

Africa is a harsh continent, and life can be cruel there. The author has captured this very well, and none of her characters have an easy ride. Even in a dynamic and emerging modern country, many of the people still believe in witchcraft and can and do die for no other reason than a witch doctor has told them that they will.

I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of Kenya's stunning and varied landscapes. I could see the vistas and smell the dust, and hear the clink of bits in the horses' mouths at the races. Her knowledge of the politics of the country is spot on.

The inter-racial love story is plausible, the characters believable, and I found the whole story to be realistic and satisfying. Just don't expect everybody to live happily ever after.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Mark A. Patton on 18 Jun. 2013
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This is a book of breath-taking scope, spanning three decades. The story of a group of friends and their complex and interwoven personal lives is set against the backdrop of the momentous political upheavals of Kenya in the second half of the Twentieth Century in a way that, for me, recalls Doris Lessing's masterpiece, "The Golden Notebook." Bwye also has something of Lessing's talent for evoking the physical landscape of Africa, counter-balancing its permanence with the changeability of the human institutions and relationships that exist within it. The book addresses serious themes (colonialism and its inheritance; the the interaction of expatriate and indigenous communities; the plight of the individual caught up in the sweep of history), but it does so with a lightness of touch that comes from being anchored in the experiences of the characters and, most of all, rooted in a deep love and profound understanding of a particular place.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Trevelyan on 29 May 2013
Format: Paperback
The author's love and passion for East Africa explodes from the pages. A beautiful place, amazing people and a wonderful story. This is how a good book should be. I was sorry when it ended, & look forward to more from this talented writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Vica K on 26 Mar. 2013
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I really enjoyed this book and found it difficult to put down - a real page turner and I think would be great for a holiday read! At the same time it does address some serious issues and interesting historical episodes in Kenyan history. Definitely a must for anyone who loves to read about Africa, its interesting culture and beautiful scenery. A wonderfully evocative book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anna Murray on 24 Mar. 2013
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I couldn't put this book down, loved Caroline and her loyalty to her friend Theresa, the involvement of the mau mau and that nasty little man Mwangi. Caroline seemed so level headed and thought nothing of bringing up the two boys and helping her friend Theresa. She was truly a Kenyan and wouldnt differentiate between the Africans and Europeans.
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