46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not Robert Redford, 9 Oct 2009
Following the very successful film Out of Africa there have been several biographies of the principal real-life characters, Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton and their times - roughly the first three decades of the 20th C. Sara Wheeler has undertaken an enormous amount of diligent research to bring us Too Close to the Sun, the most comprehensive biography I have seen of the latter, an English aristocrat to whom Karen Blixen gave herself, body and soul, in what seems to have been a largely unrequited relationship. Karen was undoubtedly a snob and even her concern for the Africans on her lands, the only redeeming feature tempering that defect, could be seen as treating Africans more as children or pets than fellow human beings. However, she was honest and straightforward and the genius that some thought worthy of a Nobel Prize for Literature was not far from the surface during her relationship with Finch Hatton. What Karen Blixen realised too late was that Finch Hatton had little concern for anybody but himself. Sara Wheeler's beautifully written dispassionate biography makes his inherent selfishness all too clear and for this reader gave her account of his life a mesmeric fascination. Finch Hatton was a man of his class and his time; a member of the English aristocracy (far removed from Robert Redford's anti-Brit American adventurer) and committed to King and Country and Class above all else. His upbringing as the younger son unlikely to succeed to the family title may well have formed his character. There is much in his life we can admire, a certain grittiness about getting on with what has to be done, courage in war and in the wilderness and the usual manly virtues. He formed enduring friendships within his class, which eased his passage through society wherever he found himself; he was admired by men and adored by women. Sara Wheeler tells it all, glosses over nothing and makes her biography of Denys Finch Hatton essential reading for any student of his times and the great social changes that have ensured those days are gone forever. Strongly recommended.