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of the houses occupied by the decadent Happy Valley set as the basis of this new slant
on 4 November 2015
Juliet Barnes set herself a very difficult task in trying to rewrite a story which has been told numerous times in the last 30 years. She has used an examination of the remains, in many cases the ruins, of the houses occupied by the decadent Happy Valley set as the basis of this new slant. Frankly it doesn't work! Even if you know Africa, and I have lived and worked in many parts of the continent over the last 40 years, the story gets rapidly tedious and her "side kick" Solomon, a Kenyan who has an obsession with colobus monkeys, just adds to the tedium. However, I am a persistent individual and I pursued the book to the finish. Only in one of the chapters near the end of the book does the story get interesting where state involvement in the murder of Lord Errol raises its head. The majority of the book deals with the modern Kenya,its people, the way it is governed and the day to day life for poor people. It is a very unflattering account but one which I know to be true.
The happy Valley set were a totally useless group of people, a total waste of space and really don't warrant the effort which Juliet Barnes expended on their story. A few years ago I wandered around Karen Blixen's house in Nairobi and only felt a sickening weight in the pit of the stomach - what a poor advertisement these people were for the Empire. However, I have to admit a compelling fascination for Alice de Janze but I suppose that is down to my maleness!
If you have a deep interest in this episode of death and debauchery in Kenya then give it a go - but you may, like me, struggle through most of it.