on 25 November 2009
A thought provoking novel that stimulates and then challenges our moral certainty about the wrongs of imperialism. Huxley's narrative skillfully and convincingly draws us into the story of three generations of a Kikuyu family. A mere rumour at first, as the novel progresses, Europeans, personally and culturally, became increasingly a feature of African life. Readers naturally lament this outcome and its related developments: urbanisation, changes in agriculture and landownership, and the passing of native customs, both ceremonial and practical. Some might also have strong feelings about the Christian missionaries. But the novel's handling of female genital mutilation gives pause for thought, as does African enthusiasm for formal education. In a like manner, the depiction of native nationalism helps explain, in part, its lack of success until the 1950s (well over a decade after Red Strangers was published).
'Red Strangers' is a beautifully written book following the lives of four generations of an african tribal family. The rich, descriptive language portrays the traditional ways of life so perfectly that you become completely immersed in them with the characters. In fact the description is so engrossing you fully understand the alienation and confusion the tribes felt when the red strangers from europe came and turned their worlds upside down. I really felt the anguish and upset the africans felt when told to stop living the life and traditions they had lived for generations, to change them for european ideals of what was correct and proper. I also felt the disappointment and anger at the elders when they say their children embrace aspects of the european life and leave their heritage behind. This story is epic in it's scope and one you start reading you will find it very hard to put down, as you will want to find out what happens next. This is one of those rare books that will stay with you for a long time after reading and leaves you better for having read it. Highly recommended.
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on 25 June 2010
In Britain we're used to believing we're the centre of the universe. Read RED STRANGERS to learn how others may view us. Elspeth Huxley's firsthand knowledge of her subject, written with empathy, compassion but without mawkishness or unwonted emotion. Rivetting. Exhausting, too. It results in exercising some caution and humility when intimately faced with another culture.
on 19 September 2010
This book paints a realistic picture of what it must have been like for many tribes in Africa to see the incomprehesible passing away of their autonomy with the arrival of the European - the red stranger. Seen from the point of view of the tribesmen, the author manages to depict the limitations of their capacity to percieve what is happening. Notable is the tale of the men who leave for the European war, with no idea what that is or where it is, and their subsequent return. They are unable even to begin to talk about it, the very concepts so strange to their erstwhile fellows as to be meaningless. It is a strangely touching account, still relevant today.