Top critical review
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on 26 December 2012
Kuki Gallmann, her husband and their son were from Italy. Their family and circumstances were comfortable, except that there was the war and the immediate post-WW2 period; it was a time of trying to put the tragedy and the trauma behind. For a young girl, Africa, Kenya in particular, was the dream-country that she longed for. When it became clear that she was quite set on this objective they left their wider families in Italy, bought a tract of land and settled in the Great Rift Valley.
The land that they entered is gone now, but Kuki Gallmann has captured something of its physical beauty and dazzling variety with her wonderful evocations of Kenya at that time, its pristine wilderness, the immense herds of wild animals and the tribal people among whom they were to live, work and die during the ensuing decades.
The loss of her husband in a vehicle collision comes as a rude shock that to some extent shatters the idyll. But I will never be able to reconcile myself with a young boy being allowed to cultivate a close relationship with African snakes in the way other youngsters might do with horses - or rabbits. The 'African Dream' of the book's title becomes the fearful spectacle of a family group in a very foreign environment, sleep-walking towards disaster and when it comes, it is almost too awful to read.
The narrative carries a heavy burden of sadness and of heart-break, of promising lives thwarted, of innocence lost and a magnificent world forever changed.