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The Flame Trees Of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Elspeth Huxley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 April 2014 Vintage Classics
When Elspeth Huxley's pioneer father buys a remote plot of land in Kenya, the family sets off to discover their new home: five hundred acres of Kenyan scrubland, infested with ticks and white ants, and quavering with heat. What they lack in know-how they make up for in determination: building a grass house, employing local Kikuyu tribe members and painstakingly transforming their patch of wilderness into a working farm. Huxley's unforgettable childhood memoir is a sensitive account of settler life at the turn of the twentieth century and a love song to the harshness and beauty of East Africa.

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The Flame Trees Of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Vintage Classics) + Out of Africa (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099577267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099577263
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An enchantment and a joy to read" (Books and Bookmen)

"She knows East Africa and she loves it - the people, black and white, and the wild beauty of its countryside - with a critical and understanding sympathy" (The Times)

"An accomplished story-teller, she weaves anecdotes, character sketches, political history together without losing her thread or the reader's momentum" (Sunday Times)

"What a marvellous writer...and what a Kenya it was" (Financial Times)

Book Description

The extraordinary adventures of a childhood in Africa, recalled in rich and loving detail.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE FLAME TREES OF THIKA 1959 11 Dec 2007
By Dr S. S. Nagi TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This small book of 285 pages,first published in 1959 (2000), has no maps and no photos, takes us back to the start of Kenya, where kikuyu were yet unaffected by the Europeans. ELSPETH JOSCELIN HUXLEY (CBE -1962) was born on 23.7.1907. Her parents arrived in THIKA, British East Africa (KENYA) in 1912, to start a coffee farm. She was educated in a white school in NAIROBI. She left Africa in 1925, but returned periodically. She married GERVAS HUXLEY in 1931. She wrote 30 books. She died in a nursing home at the age of 89 on 10.1.1997 at Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England. Elspeth parents buy a land from Nairobi and set up their home there. They gradually shape the farm. Men and women kikuyu and some masai come to work for them. The have cattle and plant coffee. More Europeans come and settle and even Thika prospers.
As a child Elspeth, sees the culture of the natives. Then comes the 1st world war. Farms close and life of the settlers is disrupted.
Excellent book, very readable and also enjoy the sequel called " The Mottled Lizard ". 'Flame trees of Thika' is also available as 2 disc DVD 1981 (2005) with Hayley Mills, David Robb, Holly Aird , Ben Cross and Sharon Mughan. Some say it is slow, but I found it just right, for the story and the times. Some of the author's other books are:-
(1) White Man's Country, 2 Volumes 1935 (1980)
(2) Murder on Safari, 1938 (2002)
(3) Red Strangers 1939 (2009)
(4) The Mottled Lizard 1962 (1999)
(5) With Fork and Hope 1964
(6) Livingstone 1974
(7) Out in the Midday Sun, My Kenya 1985 (2000)
Having born in Kenya, I enjoyed reading this book.
Read and ENJOY.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to remain a classic 20 Oct 2011
I would strongly recommend this book, since it is:

A valuable historical record (albeit fictionalised) of the life of a group of white settlers in early 20th-Century Kenya, full of everyday details but also capturing the Europeans' perceptions of the indigenous peoples and the range of their attitudes towards them. Although some of the generalisations about the customs and value systems of the Kikuyu are unreliable, the young narrator is not judgemental; she sees every individual as a human being.

An extraordinarily sensitive portrayal of the world of adults (with all their follies and weaknesses) seen through the eyes of a child.

A fine piece of writing, with an easy, flowing style that moves effortlessly between matter-of-fact and lyrical, expressing a proper sense of wonder at the beauties of the natural world.

(The ancient edition I read would be improved by a couple of maps showing the location of real places mentioned in the book - I don't know which later additions have this.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read this book what seems like a lifetime ago, after working in Nigeria for 3 years. Re-reading it now for research on the influence of voodoo/ju-ju/gris-gris/muti on African development, I was impressed by what a stunningly good read it still is. It's kept me awake 3 nights in a row.
Written a decade after Karen Blixen's Out of Africa, it deals with the same place, but a shorter time frame (colonial Kenya 1912-14). It tells the same story of sublime moments, effort and ultimate defeat but it is Huxley's (as a child) fascination and intelligent exploration of her new world that is so utterly compelling and honest. It's a tragedy that books as well-written as this one seem to have gone out of style. It is regarded as a classic, and teenagers would surely love it, so why is it not recommended reading in schools? Read it yourself and you will probably see why . . .
Kate Nivison, Woodford Green.
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5.0 out of 5 stars superb memories of a lost time 24 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
You can see the country, smell and hear its inhabitants. A masterpiece. If ever you visit Thika the flame trees still flower.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Flame Trees of Thika 15 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When we booked our holiday to Kenya I was advised of this book and again it is mentioned in Diana Sheldrick's book so I had to read it. It was written in 1959 and her memories of her childhood in Africa were tremendous. Life around 1st WW was very different to today as shooting wildlife was acceptable then. It didn't grip me emotionally theye way Lawrence Anthony's The Elephant Whisperer did but nevertheless insightful. It was shown as a television series in 1981 but I missed that as I was living in Berlin then.
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