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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Robert Redford, 9 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Apr 2010 19:51:17 BDT
This is a helpful review, as I think we have a fascination with Denys Finch Hatton due to the portrayal of him by Robert Redford in "Out of Africa". Hence we long to know more about him and are saddened by his tragic death. That the lions came to the grave siteand lay on his grave, enhances the poignancy of his life story, and that of Karen Blixen.
Having grown up in the wild of Africa, I do think that there are many characters who, like DFH, have insight and perceptions of events taking place around them, but their ideas are known only to a few, and never reach "the world stage". They are the unknowns whose lives are lived far from the public eye.
Thanks for the review. My plan is to read the book, if only to wallow in nostalgia!

Posted on 26 Apr 2010 19:53:50 BDT
This is a helpful review, as I think we have a fascination with Denys Finch Hatton due to the portrayal of him by Robert Redford in "Out of Africa". Hence we long to know more about him and are saddened by his tragic death. That the lions came to the grave siteand lay on his grave, enhances the poignancy of his life story, and that of Karen Blixen.
Having grown up in the wild of Africa, I do think that there are many characters who, like DFH, have insight and perceptions of events taking place around them, but their ideas are known only to a few, and never reach "the world stage". They are the unknowns whose lives are lived far from the public eye.
Thanks for the review. My plan is to read the book, if only to wallow in nostalgia!

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Oct 2010 01:44:52 BDT
Azimuth500 says:
Interesting comment, thank you, Mrs Clements. As one who likewise grew up there, I wonder where in 'the wild of Africa' Mrs Clements grew up. Possibly Kenya itself.

Posted on 3 Oct 2010 01:49:53 BDT
Azimuth500 says:
I do not disagree with Brian Singleton's comments about Karen Blixen, but it is a fascinating outcome of her unresolved attitude towards Africa and Africans that she also developed 'body and soul' relationships with member/s of her African staff. She went home with syphilis, visited on her by her errant husband. She published a considerable body of work, some under her early pseudonym, Isak Dinesen, and is today of course highly revered in her native Denmark, not least by the powerful 'women's lib' lobby.
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