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4.0 out of 5 stars THE GHOSTS OF HAPPY VALLEY, 4 July 2013
This review is from: The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats (Hardcover)
This book was first published in 2013, has 303 pages, 30 chapters, 46 photos and 1 map. The book is dedicated to 'Solomon'. JULIET BARNES was born, raised and schooled in Kenya and then went to St Andrew's University, Scotland to read English. She now lives with her 2 children beside Lake ELEMENTEITA in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. HAPPY VALLEY (in the 1920's to 1930's) name was given to 'Wanjohi Valley' in Kenya Highlands, between the Aberdares(Nyandarua Range-13,120ft) and the Kipipiri Mountain-10,987ft, where rich whites settled. Barnes goes to find out what was left of these settlers homes, farms and lives. The Railway station of GIL GIL(relentless dusty wind) was the access to Happy Valley. Now-a-days, it is a run down and scruffy roadside town.
So in the year 2000, Solomon, a kikuyu guides Barnes to the Happy Valley. Using her old land rover on the rough roads, they see old settlers houses and farms, now rundown. Some have vanished, some intact and some now haunted! They visit 'Clouds'(Mawingo) - Lady Idina's house and 'Slains,', still mystified by the unsolved murder of Lord Erroll. Barnes discovers love triangles, drug additions, depression and even suicide, amongst the so called 'happy valley' settlers, including Alice Silverthorne(de-Janze or de-Trafford). Happy Valley had become a 'Problem Valley'.
With help from Solomon, Barnes struggles on the bad roads and visits(over 10 years) what remains of other farms and houses of the Valley, their flowering gardens, fruit trees and lawns. Now the locals are busy cutting and burning the trees and the rivers are going dry and the trout and the wildlife have gone. Some names remain - 'Happy valley school' and some 'MAU MAU' veterans, in these beautiful natural surroundings. The only totally intact old house with well kept gardens, was 'Ramsdens Kipipiri House'.
Some say 'Happy Valley was named after people had crossed baron Rift Valley and saw this beautiful valley which made them happy. Others felt, it could have been named after village of happy valley in Essex, England! All before the happy valley crowd moved in. This book ends with interviews with old Mau Mau men, stories of whites who may have helped them and author's quest to find the truth about Lord Erroll's murder.
This book goes into detailed history of 'Happy Valley' and what remains of it now. The artist's map shows houses and farms and who lived in them. Pictures show how some farms and houses were and what they look like now. By 1950's old happy valley crowd had faded away and the kikuyu moved into the area and some wealthy African politicians with their other business interests. Most of us as tourists will never see these places in Kenya, which makes it more interesting to read this book.
Some other books of interest are:-
(1) West with the Night, Markham 1942
(2) Out of Africa, Blixen 1964
(3) Forks and Hope, Huxley 1964
(4) Happy Valley, Best 1979
(5) White Mischief, Fox 1984
(6) The man Whom Women Loved, Aschen 1987
(7) Silence will Speak, Trzebinski 1988
(8) Child of Happy Valley, Carberry 1999( Juanita Carberry died of lung Cancer, aged 88, on 27.7.2013, in Clapham.)
(9) The Truth Behind Happy Valley Murder, Trzebinski 2000
(10)The Bolter, Osborne 2008
Having born in Kenya, I found this book interesting.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Jul 2013 04:21:57 BDT
J. Forbes says:
I have seldom seen so many errors of spelling and grammar in a short piece. As for the "baron Rift Valley" - words fail me. BARREN, you imbecile, and by the way, it's anything but. A significant proportion of the flowers and fruit imported into the UK is grown in the Rift Valley.

I am surprised you have appended a reading list, as it is not evident that you read much at all. Most of the books you list are pretty trashy, and in any case the Happy Valley story paints a very false picture of Kenya in colonial times. To provide some balance, I would recommend "The Flame Trees of Thika" and "Red Strangers", both by Elspeth Huxley. From your list, only the first four are worth buying, though I am including (4) purely because I was at school with Best (a nom-de-plume) - I haven't actually read the book. But his "Tennis and the Masai" was excellent, and was serialised on Radio 4. It describes the school, thinly disguised.

By the way, Gilgil was always a run-down and scruffy roadside town. Nowadays it is the same as it always was. Plus ca change.

Posted on 5 Aug 2013 07:39:22 BDT
I am most grateful that Dr Nagi took the trouble to review my book and was shocked to read the comments on this review by J Forbes. I would like to point out to Mr Forbes that spelling and grammar, important as they may be, don't come naturally to all of us. Many people have language barriers and learning difficulties, but are usually very clever people - certainly not imbeciles, as J Forbes so abusively writes. As it happens I am dyslexic myself and battle with spelling and grammar. Furthermore I highly recommend all the books on Mr Nagi's reading list - the only one which might be termed 'trashy' is the late Juanita's.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2013 01:36:23 BDT
J. Forbes says:
Well, I suppose all publicity is good publicity.

Your statement that people with learning difficulties are "usuallly very clever" is risible, and for the record I called only the reviewer an imbecile. I made no reference to learning difficulties.

Good luck with the book. If you are in search of a subject for your next tome, might I suggest an even-handed account of Mau-Mau? It's much needed, and currently some of the protagonists are still alive. They won't be forever, and the subject is too important to be left to dishonest American academics with axes to grind.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Aug 2013 14:35:48 BDT
Thank you. Indeed an even-handed account of Mau Mau is much needed. It's something I'd love to do, although at the present time I'm currently too busy with other projects. However, as you point out, time is running out. It's something I shall think about.
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