Thoughts on: The flame trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

24 Aug

This is a story about a European family and how they settled in a farm in Thika, Kenya in the 1910s. It ends with the start of the First World War. It revolves around their day to day activities; starting a coffee farm from nothing, getting labour from the native population, interactions with their European neighbours etc. They get to learn the customs of the Kikuyu and the Maasai and to understand as well their legendary enmity.

I found interesting the sheer will power to settle in a place unknown, the readiness to take on adventure for livelihood and not for sport “by the horns” so to speak all in order to further the interests of their country or empire. In a similar way, the readiness with which, once war is declared, they leave everything gained to have the honour to fight for their country.

The book is very well written; the descriptions are superb, even poetical. At some point, it seems like an encyclopedia of flora and fauna. Towards the end of the book, I noted some of the birds and plants/trees mentioned. Birds: kingfisher, stonechats, babblers, mouse birds, swallow, whydah, harrier, blacksmith, finch and sunbird. Plants/trees: leleshwa, cedar tree, juniper, acacia, red oat grass, orchid, starlings, geraniums, weaver tree and delphinium. How long would have been the list if I had started from the very beginning!

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