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4.6 out of 5 stars30
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2009
I got this book knowing it was not what it said on the cover but a charming little tale of unrequited love set in Post Independence Kenya. I was not disappointed. Without spoiling the plot it revolves around two mature men and their quest for the hand of the same lady. If anyone is seeking salacious descriptions they should look elsewhere, it is not a steamy love romp.
There is a side plot where our hero, Mr Malick, is the writer of a birding column in the local paper. The 'joke' is that he is actually recounting misdemeanours of "Those in High places" but using bird names as pseudonyms for the guilty parties. The whole City knows this but no-one can name the source.
Having really enjoyed the plots and sub plots I am left wondering if one of the author's little jokes is on us and the whole book is a similar skit on life in modern Kenya?
Do buy it even if you have no interest in ornithology.
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on 24 July 2008
This is a book that redeems one's faith in human nature, that will make you smile and make you feel good about life.

It is an unusual love story and introduces one of the most loveable characters, Mr Malik. He's no love god, he's a little tubby and has a rather alarming comb-over but he's brave and has the warmest heart. Mr Malik has fallen in love with Rose Mbikwa the leader of his Tuesday morning bird walk. He wants to ask her out but has competition from the flash Harry Kahn. They decide they'll have a bet; whoever spots the most birds in the week will ask Rose out.

It reminded me of Alexander Mccall Smith (but better written and funnier) and Marina Lewycka's Tractors in Ukrainian. I loved it and have been telling everyone I know to read it.
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on 16 March 2009
I bought this book by mistake; I really did want a bird book. However, do not dismay as birds are a central theme. I think the book evokes some of the character of modern-day Kenya very well, the characters are believable, the plot, gently twisting. The imagery is strong and colourful. I felt also that I was watching the film whilst reading the story. Warmly recommended for, lovers of Africa, birds and a good tale. I was very taken with the design of the book too, (hardcover edition).
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on 19 June 2009
I really liked this book for many reasons:

1) it is short - at 200 pages, even if you don't like it, it is soon over
2) having visited Kenya on several occasions, and with family there, it is evident that the author knows the place well and can elicit many a wry smile from his witty and pertinent observations
3) As a birdwatcher who has seen many, many more bird species in Kenya than either contestant, I greatly appreciate the thoughtful detail around the bird race which added to the book's authenticity as well as its aesthetic appeal
4) the humanity of the self-effacing Mr Malik shines through the piece as a whole, both through his highly effective and anonymous politial satire and his compassionate visits to AIDS sufferers motivated by the sad circumstances around the death of his son
5) I enjoyed the very conscious interventions in the literary process by the author, who acted as an amiable companion rather than a neutral observer
6) It is a novel where the good guy gets the girl (albeit that she is of pensionable age)

This is a sweet, funny, whimsical novel which creates a bubble where post-colonial Kenya can exist even though it is under threat from muggers and Somali bandits. And what's wrong with that?
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on 15 August 2010
This lovely book saw me through a 7-hour wait for an operation. I may have been hungry, thirsty, worried stiff and dressed in a hospital gown, but not bored. I read the whole thing at one go. No-one in the other cubicles could make out why I was laughing out loud in sheer ecstasy. When is the sequel coming out?
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on 17 February 2010
I bought this because it had a pretty cover on it. I was surprised and delighted by the contents. It's one of the most charming stories I have read in a long while, and the humour is gentle and witty at the same time. I believe a book is a good book if I miss my bus stop because I'm so deeply buried in it. With this one I did so repeatedly. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and an ideal pick-up if you are feeling a bit low. On my next trip to Africa I will look at birds with a completely new eye!
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2012
This is a very gentle story, told to us by a nameless narrator, who occasionally surprises you with a scathing comment about something happening in the world. Definitely good for a holiday read. It stars Mr Malik, who has retired, possibly a bit early and is busy with a gentle but active retirement. I'm guessing the book is set about 2004 and Mr Malik is about 60. All the interlinking stories are based around Mr Malik's interests - which are mainly his club where he meets his friends - all of a similar age and well to do members of the Kenyan (Nairobi) Indian community and Birding and his family. Mr Malik is a keen birder and the chapter headings in my copy have pretty little pencil sketches of East African birds. This tale is full of incident a lot of it brought about by Harry Khan - Mr Malik's arch nemesis from school - returning to Kenya and making moves on the lady of Mr Malik's dreams. This is a kind, funny, occasionally sad and occasionally outrageous book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 11 June 2010
I have just put down, but not before the final full stop and with much regret that there was no more, an entrancing little story set in modern Nairobi, A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson. I've bought copies for my friends and am going to write to Drayson. It cast a spell over me. It's mostly set in a Kenyan Indian gentlemen's club. Peter Robbs, Cambridgeshire
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on 23 July 2010
This is a very gentle fictional story centred around bird watching but it is NOT a reference guide as the title and cover may suggest. I really enjoyed the story, and easy read, charming characters and a very sweet ending.
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on 20 August 2010
This novel brought back memories of our time in East Africa in the mid-90s. We were based in Uganda but made occasional trips to Nairobi (and the coast) to buy items that weren't available in Kampala and to sample the different range of wildlife in Kenya. The descriptions of some of the birds encountered during the competition may not mean much to some readers but they were a sheer delight to keen birders like us - especially the great blue touraco on page 161.

But this is not a bird guide, it's a love story, a warm, gentle, humorous love story, in which honesty, honour and dogged determination win out against flashy wealth and the hazards of life in Kenya. Buy and enjoy!
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