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Five great books set in KENYA
18th August 2019
Kenya is the latest country for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Kenya.
Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses savannah, lakelands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands. It’s also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. It has a population of just over 49 million.
“We’re small because when they took them (Africans) into slavery, they took the big ones.” – Mwanasiti, a Kenyan woman, accounting for the small size and height of Kenyans
Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.
But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.
Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?
‘Often, at the hour of day when the savannah grass is streaked with silver, and pale gold rims the silhouettes of the hills, I drive with my dogs up to the Mukutan, to watch the sun setting behind the lake, and the evening shadows settle over the valleys and plains of the Laikipia plateau.’
Kuki Gallmann’s haunting memoir of bringing up a family in Kenya in the 1970s first with her husband Paulo, and then alone, is part elegaic celebration, part tragedy, and part love letter to the magical spirit of Africa.
Growing up in the Nairobi of the 90s, a seething boiling pot of racial tension and conflicting cultural taboos, Leena and Jai are raised to believe in a Kenya full of possibility and potential. But as they come of age and venture into a world of underground activists beyond the confines of their tight-knit East Asian community and closely guarded, gated compound, they start to see a country divided by deep ethnic allegiances and on the brink of something very sinister. Soon Leena and Jai find themselves entangled in a shady world of crooked policemen, seedy salesmen, prostitutes, and bohemian artists. As the city tightens its grip, so begins a dangerous game of corruption and conspiracy, where rebellions simmer, and a tangled web of power unravels as dark forces collide and disturbing revelations surface.
At once a hopelessly romantic love story, a gripping adventure yarn and a fine piece of social anthropology, White Masai is a compulsive read. Whilst on holiday Corinne Hoffman fell in love with a Masai warrior. After overcoming all sorts of obstacles she moved into a tiny shack with him and his mother and spent four years in Kenya. Slowly but surely, the dream began to crumble. She eventually fled back home with her baby daughter. From wild animals through starvation to ritual mutilation, this is a book steeped in humanity and one that tells a fascinating tale.
It is 1963 and Kenya is on the verge of Uhuru – Independence Day. The mighty british government has been toppled, and in the lull between the fighting and the new world, colonized and colonizer alike reflect on what they have gained and lost. In the village of Thabai, the men and women who live there have been transformed irrevocably by the uprising. Kihika, legendary rebel leader, was fatally betrayed to the whiteman. Gikonyo’s marriage to the beautiful Mumbi was destroyed when he was imprisoned, while her life has been shattered in other ways. And Mugo, brave survivor of the camps and now a village hero, harbours a terrible secret. As events unfold, compromises are forced, friendships are betrayed and loves are tested.
Tony for the TripFiction Team
Which titles would you add to the list? Remember to check out the TripFiction listings for more books set in Kenya and around the world. Each will transport you to some excellent fiction, travelogues or memoirs. Or you may have your own favourites you would like to add. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below.
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