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Speak Swahili, Dammit!
Speak Swahili, Dammit!
by James Penhaligon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a life...., 4 July 2013
This review is from: Speak Swahili, Dammit! (Paperback)
How fortunate was James Penhaligon to grow up in rural Tanganyika all those years ago, in the dusty flea-bitten gold mining town of Geita? I'd say very lucky indeed. In this book he tells of his adventures, which are many, and he tells them very well. You are drawn into his life - it might be unimaginable to first world folk, but trust me it is real - and somewhat mirrors my childhood in deepest darkest Africa.

Going to boarding school from the tender age of 6, hundred of miles away from home on roads that beggar belief, they could hardly qualify as roads, even then - has a familiar ring.

The book finishes without finishing if you get my drift. We all want to know what happens next. I'm told a sequel is due late this year or early next - can't wait.

The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats
The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats
by Juliet Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.54

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Story...., 4 July 2013
Juliet Barnes has written for all incarnations of Travel News Kenya over many, many years. They obviously like what she does, and well she does it.

She has grown with them over the years, starting out as she did with a long series on the old churches of Kenya to include their graveyards, and more recently the old homes of Happy Valley, the obvious genesis of this book. She is presently writing a series for them on the old homes of Eburru.

To correct a misconception, Happy Valley is not named after all the shenanigans that went on there in the 20s and 30s. Geoff Buxton, the first colonial farmer in the area, had moved up from the dry arid Rift Valley with its meagre rivers and a relentless dusty wind that gave Gilgil its name. And so, after finding his ideal farming country, he delightfully called this new haven, `Happy Valley',

Everyone I mentioned the book to said `Oh no, not another book about the unsavoury goings-on in Happy Valley so long ago; and please don't tell me there is a new theory about the death of Lord Erroll.'

Well, in the main, it is none of the above, thankfully.

The book is essentially about the old homes of both well-to-do aristocrats and impecunious colonial farmers in the early days of the Kenya Colony, through to independence and the 21st century.
It's about who farmed where, who built those lovely old homes (the few that survive), the histories of those who lived there all those years ago. We meet Simon Gitau, her erstwhile travelling companion and guide - an arch conservationist who dangerously campaigns to save the ever-diminishing indigenous forests and the last few troops of Colobus monkeys that live in the valley.

This book is both travelogue and social history lesson; anthropological in parts; and above all, a personal quest.

As someone who has edited Juliet's work for many years, I cannot be critical of her writing, not from any other viewpoint than there is little if anything to fault in this book. Her descriptions draw you to the story which is well structured, interesting and informative. The research that has gone into this book is mightily impressive; facts have been checked and re-checked, and I found no glaring errors or omissions.

While this book might not be to everyone's taste, it is a history of the homes and their occupants in a valley in Kenya that, aside from its notoriety, has valuable historical significance.

I have to say I was disappointed with the images used in the book; many of them have been used in Travel News Kenya - perhaps a copyright issue. As my schoolteacher said repeatedly, `Could have done better if tried harder'.

That aside, it's an extremely enjoyable read, and I'd highly recommend it to you.

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