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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
71
4.6 out of 5 stars


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on 20 September 1999
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. Throughout his life he has an unusual affection for an aunt twenty-odd years his senior, writes to her nearly every day, and longs for her to come and live with him in Africa. He loses his first real love to another man, and much later ends up marrying her daughter, twenty-odd years his junior. He has two daughters by his young wife, who leaves him after a few years and returns to England. He lives alone in the great house for the rest of his life, though he has many visitors, travels back to England occasionally, delights in his grandchildren, and remains close to his servants.
"The Africa House" can hold its own against the classics of the colonials-in-Africa genre, such as "Out of Africa," "West with the Night," and the stories of Ernest Hemingway. It also would make a good movie. Christina Lamb is to be congratulated on a remarkable achievement, and I look forward to her next book.
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on 13 February 2017
Bought this purely on the basis that I really enjoyed "Farewell Kabul" by the same author.
Recently I've typically been Nordic Noire books but thought I'd give this a go and am I glad I did.
A wonderful story of a remarkable old school Englishman and how he created a little bit of England in Northern Rhodesia.
Whilst Browne was prone to outbursts and ill treatment of the natives, he undoubtedly had their interests at heart and was a very generous man doing so much for the locals.
His personal life was strange with him marrying the daughter of the one woman he really loved (apart from his aunt). Don't wish to give away the story so will say no more on how that worked out.
A truely remarkable story spanning over eighty years, the quote that summed up Gore-Browne was attributed to Kenneth Kaunda, "his vision saved us from a bloodbath"
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on 4 August 2017
Fabulous true story of a man with a dream and how he made it work, and gave purposeful work to hundreds of local Africans before and after the independence of Zambia. So enjoyed it that my husband and I are considering the not inconsiderably difficult journey to go and stay there with Gore-Brown's grand children!
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on 27 July 2017
I cannot believe I overlooked reading this superbly written and researched book. The bookseller delivered it well-packaged and well ahead of schedule, and at a most fair price, and is deserving of 5 stars.
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on 16 July 2017
Made me feel a part of history. Enjoyed the read and would recommend it to others interested in African history.
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on 17 March 2017
Loved It!
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on 20 August 2014
Amazing book
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on 23 September 2002
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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on 25 June 2001
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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on 24 October 2000
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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