Top positive review
Such a fabulous read!
29 December 2015
Memoirs and biographies are my favourite genre, and as an ex-Kenya girl having lived there at the same time as the author, and knowing many of the people and places she describes, I so loved this book,
From family archives and diaries the author brings to life the exploits of her grandfather who, in 1899 left his comfortable upper-class existence in London to embark on a new life in a country where a white face was a novelty.
Plenty has been written about Kenya’s ‘Great White Hunters’ and the scandalous socialites of Happy Valley, but we hear very little about the pioneers who laid the cornerstones of the country’s commercial life. ‘The Forgotten Pioneer’ follows George Ramsay’s journey over more than 50 years, from a primitive tent to an elegant home in Nairobi’s most prestigious district. It gives a wonderful look into the lives of British settlers during Kenya’s era as a British colony, when tradition must be adhered to, and the servants wore white gloves to hand around cucumber sandwiches from bone china plates, and tea was poured from a silver teapot. People dressed for dinner, meals were served promptly and consisted of at least five courses. If the family servants found this behaviour strange they gave no sign, but performed their duties impeccably and inscrutably. They are remembered with affection by the author, as valued members of the household.
While much of the settlers’ existence was enviably comfortable, there was a great deal of danger, too, both from wild animals who ate people, to freedom fighters during the Mau Mau struggle for Kenya’s independence. The author and her schoolgirl classmates stood ready with pepper pots to defend themselves in the event of attack.
The book is enhanced with a collection of family photographs, including game hunting scenes that I skipped - while we abhor it now, in that era shooting wildlife was accepted as the norm. Only one small glitch: there is a photograph of a man who is identified as both James Gailey and David Roberts.
Really one of the very best books I have read about life in Kenya, and I highly recommend it to anybody who enjoys reading biographies or who has had the great good fortune to live in that beautiful country.