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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