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The Africa House: The True Story of an English Gentleman and His African Dream Hardcover – 24 Jun 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 3rd Impression edition (24 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670877271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670877270
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.8 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 484,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

On Good Friday in 1914, a young British Army officer named Stewart Gore-Browne first glimpsed a lake in what was then Northern Rhodesia that the local Bemba tribe called Shiwa Ngandu ("Lake of the Royal Crocodiles"). At that moment, a love affair began which would last his lifetime, as the enraptured Gore-Browne set about creating a very British idyll in the African bush, complete with redbrick house and a terrace on which uniformed staff would serve champagne and cocktails. This is the complicated story of a man, his colonial vision, and the burden it became, set against the country in which he battles to realise it.

Christina Lamb has assembled the story from the mass of diaries and correspondence that lay within the now crumbling and neglected house. It is an extraordinary tale that leaps off the page with the grace of a springbok. Gore-Browne initially appears an extinct species, all Harrovian vowels, and prone to pepper with lead shot anything that moves. He is, however, infused with a liberal, humane streak that leads him in later life to support Kenneth Kaunda and the UNIP in their fight for power. Indeed, Kaunda said of him, "... he [Gore-Browne] was born an English gentleman, and died a Zambian gentleman".

Gore-Browne's personal life progressed from an unrequited love to a dramatic marriage, while still indulging in a formidably passionate correspondence with a favourite aunt. There are times when you wish for a timely swipe of the novelist's pen, but it is the nature of this beast that questions remain unanswered; what holds this engrossing chronicle in place is the Africa House itself, and the lives that unfold in and around it, perched incongruously as it is in a country that has outgrown it. --David Vincent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Christina Lamb is an award-winning journalist who, since graduating from Oxford twelve years ago, has lived overseas as a correspondent for the Financial Times in Pakistan and Brazil, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and correspondent for the Sunday Times in South Africa. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she is an inveterate traveller. Her previous book, Waiting for Allah: Pakistan's Struggle for Democracy, was published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin. She is currently Foreign Affairs Correspondent for the Sunday Times and lives with her husband and young son in London and Portugal. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 20 Sept. 1999
Format: Hardcover
This may be the best book I've read all year. I ran across it quite by accident while looking for books on Africa in amazon.co.uk. As far as I know, "The Africa House" hasn't yet been published in the U.S. If not, it's a pity, and once it is published here, I hope that amazon.com and other American booksellers give it the attention it deserves.
"The Africa House" is the biography of Stewart Gore-Browne, an Army officer of good family who settles in a remote part of Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) after the First World War with the intention of creating a great country estate. He builds an enormous house, fills it with imported furniture, art, books and wine, and employs as many as 1,000 local people to keep the place going. Although he tries a number of business ventures on the property, such as distilling tropical oils used in perfume, his grand scheme mostly loses money, yet he remains steadfastly devoted to it until his death in 1967.
Dressing for dinner every night, wearing a monocle, occasionally beating his servants, playing "La Bohème" on the gramophone, raising and lowering the Union Jack every day, Gore-Browne is outwardly the very image of a high colonial official. Yet the reality is that he mostly detests colonial officialdom, and has a high respect for Africans, and they for him. One of his acquaintances is the young Kenneth Kaunda, who later becomes Zambia's first President. He is disappointed not to be invited into Kaunda's government after the transition to black rule, but remains Kaunda's friend and informal adviser until his death, when Kaunda gives him a state funeral.
Gore-Browne's personal life is another interesting theme of the story.
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Format: Paperback
I read a copy of Africa House whilst on a week's visit to the super country of Zambia. I found the storyline both rivetting and mysterious, it was very well researched and the atmosphere of the place comes across very effectively to the reader. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when afterwards I saw the slightly tarnished ink-pot with which Gore-Browne wrote all the letters (on display at the National Museum in Lusaka), along with his walking stick and other items. Only wish I had more time to go and visit the house, I heard it was beginning to fall into ruin.
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Format: Paperback
I thought this might be a heavy-going and 'worthy' read, but far from it. I zipped through it in no time and couldn't stop turning the pages! What an amazing, complex man and an almost unbelievable life! It's interesting to note that Mark at the Africa House has now finished renovating it - it will definitely be on my list of 'must see' things before I pop my clogs. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in travel, or African history or indeed anyone who just wants to read a fantastic, inspiring tale about one of the lesser known, but hugely influential, characters of recent times.
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Format: Paperback
A man from another age, and yet someone whose individual dream rings a bell with me. What a fascinating story. Unexpected, touching, magical.
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Format: Paperback
The events described in The Africa House would seem improbably unrealistic if they were not true. Christina Lamb paints a moving portrait of a courageous, if absurd endeavour in the lost world of colonial Africa. This is a hugely enjoyable book!
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I had not heard of Gore Brown, nor his dream mansion in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. A man of contradictions, who wanted Africa for the Africans and the white man to help them show the way, his eccentricities and determination is eloquently portrayed by Lamb. Losing his first love to another, he oddly marries her daughter, who bears him two girls.
A life of politics, farming, and entertaining foreign and domestic dignitaries, he made an impact on Copperbelt politics, and was disappointed he was too old to assist in Kenneth Kaunda's new goverment. He is the only white man to have received a full Bemba funeral, attended by Kenneth Kaunda, ex-president of Zambia. He was truly an unique and incredible man. Christina Lamb presents a believable portrayal of an English eccentric, who realised his dream,and built an English mansion in the African bush, for his favourite Aunt. A great read, and the political and cultural context is blended well with the life story of Gore-Brown.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you didn’t know this was a true story, this book would read like a fiction book, an English Officer who finds an idyllic spot in Africa (Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia) after the First World War buys acres of land and decides to build a manor house and village, based on an English country village. With no experience of building and using local materials a beautiful, impractical house takes shape in Africa, Life is ruled by this house, the cost of its upkeep was tremendous and although many projects were tried nothing seemed to be able to make money for any prolonged period. The house became famous throughout Africa and enjoyed many rich and famous visitors. Stewart Gore –Brown enjoyed a very colonial life style being waited on hand and foot by Africans, dressing for dinner and living his life as lord of the manor. Gore –Brown is not as appears and is something of a puzzle, he shouts at his servants, hits them and expects a certain standard, but at the same time builds houses for them and gives them work. Later in the book you find out he goes against all the views of the time and actually believes and works towards independence. He forms a lifelong friendship with Kenneth Kaunda (first president of Zambia) and is the only white man to get a state funeral in 1967.
Throw into the mix the strange relationship Gore enjoyed with his aunt, who he wrote to everyday of her life, and had actually built the house with her in mind. In his mind he had hoped she would give up her estate in England and come and live with him. His marriage (which ended in divorce) to the (very much younger) orphaned daughter of his first love. Two daughters and a lifelong faithful servant/ chauffeur Henry. This book paints a vivid picture of Zambia’s fight for independence and the descriptions of Africa at the turn of the century and is very enjoyable.
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