Book Review: Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

November 9, 2011 · 5 comments

I have just finished reading Out of Africa and have already decided it as one of my most favourite pieces of literature.  It is breathtakingly beautiful.

Karen Blixen was 21 when she left Denmark and emigrated to Kenya with her Swedish husband.  There, they bought a 4,000-acre coffee plantation which she ran from 1914 – 1931, even after she and her husband separated.  Part autobiography, part travel journel, Out of Africa is written under her pen name, Isak Dinesen, and it is the story of a love affair between a woman and her adoptive country.

Dinesen is curious about and respectful of Kenya and its people and animals, and she writes about them with warmth and understanding.

Early next morning when Farah brought me in my tea, Juma came in with him and carried the fawn in his arms.  It was a female, and we named her Lulu, which I was told was the Swaheli word for a pearl.

Lulu by that time was only as big as a cat, with large quiet purple eyes.  She had such delicate legs that you feared they would not bear being folded up and unfolded again, as she lay down and rose up.  Her ears were as smooth as silk and exceedingly expressive.  Her nose was as black as a truffle.  Her diminutive hoofs gave her all the air of a young Chinese lady of the old school, with laced feet.  It was a rare experience to hold such a perfect thing in your hands.

I think it is a rare experience to read such a well-written book. It gave me hope that I might yet find my place on this earth.  I love its intimate descriptions.  It is a landscape painted in words, an informal study in anthropology, written by a woman who embodies strength and grace.

Each chapter was like a square of chocolate that I broke off and savoured — it’s a book I enjoyed reading over for more than 6 months, and I feel like I want to have my copy framed!

I have a pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read, but I think it will be a while before I find another such quietly moving novel.  Perhaps you have a recommendation you’d like to share?  Have you ever read something that so moved you?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jasmine November 9, 2011 at 12:08

Oh my gosh! My reading list is already so long, but this seems like a must—you make it seem so magical.


2 Lauren November 9, 2011 at 17:00

Believe me, I could never do it justice… it’s more magical than magical, because it happened. <3


3 Jasmine November 9, 2011 at 12:10

And my all-time favourite read would have to be A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. While I dig the rest of his work… nothing ever lived up to the intensity with which I was knocked out by that book. I couldn’t put it down, and I have re-read my battered old copy at least 10 times since.


4 Lauren November 9, 2011 at 17:03

Ooh, thanks for this! I haven’t read any of John Irving, so I’m excited.

Have you ever read Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)? That’s the one book I re-read every few years, and each time I am more amazed by his predictions. He was writing about IVF in the early 1930s (first test tube baby was born 1977)!


5 Jasmine November 16, 2011 at 12:50

Brave New World totally blew my mind. It was truly uncomfortable how woefully accurate his vision of the future was. Damn, I should read that again. Except there is so much to be read!


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