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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Flame Trees Of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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
on 20 October 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2012
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2006
This book is on the same sort of rank and the same genre as Out of Africa. A literary autobiography set in Kenya during an uncertain and enterprising colonial era before the First World War.

It's strongest elements include a deep sensitivity to the travails of animal life up against white hunters and farmers, very full accounts of the Kikuyu people and their rivalries with other Africans and it also paints a vivid portrait of pioneering planters and their servants in the shadow of the Great War.

The vantage of the book is greater than that of Out of Africa by Blixen being a less personal tale. it is a faithful, sometimes harrowing tale culled from an excellent store of memories representing times and scenes gone by. Huxley is not short on romance and tragedy.

This book is an ideal companion to those interested in the British Empire and African anthropology. For naturalists it provides breathtaking accounts of white hunters and their quarry as a retrospective commentary on man's abuse of Africa's wild heritage. Huxley writes quietly, sensitively and impartially providing philosophic insights in a heuristic and magical narrative. Always compelling, this is an important primary text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2014
At last I got round to reading this book and very glad I am too! It is beautifully written with just enough landscape description to create a visual picture of this part of Africa - but not enough to send you to sleep. The tribal peoples are presented with dignity and humour and the inevitable rivalry/competition between the Masai and the Kikuyu is skilfully shown. As is the same rivalry/competition between the Dutch/Boers/English. The child floats effortlessly between all the different cultures, observing without criticism but with tremendous humour. This is a lovely snapshot of Kenya before the first world war and I am looking forward to reading the sequel - The Mottled Lizard.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2003
Would have given this book 6 stars or more if I could. It is a terrific insight in how a child grows up in this bewildering setting that is so beautifully described. You can actually feel the dust settling on your skin after a long day of trekking through the untamed wilderness of Kenya, some 100 years ago. Probably romaticized, but hey: it's childhood memories: of course they are. Still, it gives you very good inside information on how the early settlers used to live and cope with their surroundings and the native community. Buy it!
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on 4 December 2014
A classic travel story of Kenya in the early years of the 20th Century. Deals imaginatively and sympathetically with the problems of the "White Settler" in a environment which could be beautiful, friendly, and hostile at any one time. Anyone interested in modern Kenya should read this book. Looking forward to reading the sequel "The Mottled Lizard."
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on 24 April 2014
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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on 20 May 2015
Having lived in Kenya in the 1970's and visited Thika many times myself, I loved the film series when it came on TV, and have thought a lot of it over the years, but never seen a repeat. Decided to buy both the DVD and the book, and have enjoyed them both again.
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on 2 January 2015
Although I was initially interested in this book because we have been fortunate to visit the places described, I now know it to be a very poignant story of life for early European settlers. A thoroughly, if a little sad, good read.

SNSS
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