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The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) [Paperback]

Elspeth Huxley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book by Huxley, Elspeth

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Most helpful customer reviews
What a wonderful book, a wonderful writer, a wonderful world, at least from the child's point of view. Growing up in Kenya, the only child of would-be coffee plantation owners among the Kikuyu tribesmen, Elspeth Huxley comes of age is an unimaginable world which comes to an abrupt end as war begins.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and tedious, both April 1 2004
I enjoyed the first two-thirds of this book, but after awhile found all the tiny details tedious. Every noun has six adjectives.
My basic quibble is that it is supposedly from the point of view of a seven year old child, but her thoughts and observations are those of an adult. Is this Huxley remembering at age 46, or is this supposed to be what a seven-year old observed?
At one moment we have a child, playing in the yard with chameleons and the next a child who understands the love affairs of adults.
Well, that's the problem with a memoire that tries to be a novel, and fails, I might add.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary! Aug. 18 2002
The African landscape and the people in "The Flame Trees of Thika" became so real to me that I grieved when the book ended. Six-year-old Elspeth Huxley's parents and friends became my parents and friends. Elspeth said of Tilly, her perfectionist mother, "it was the details others might not notice that destroyed her, the pleasure of achievement." However Robin, Elspeth's idealistic father, "as a rule, had his mind on distant greater matters always much more promising and congenial than those closer at hand."
Other notable characters included Elspeth's neighbors the beautiful, Lattice and her formal husband, Hereward, the kindly Ian, their house guest, who was in love with Lattice; Juma, their Swahili cook, Sammy their Masai/Kikuyu headman and Njombo, the Kikuju laborer's spokesman.
Huxley has the rare ability to understand and convey the culture and viewpoint of both the European colonial settlers and the Kikuyu and Masai people. The materialistic Europeans were critical of the nomadic Kikuyus who do not aspire to change, tame, possess or improve the countryside. The Kikuya, in turn, were mystified at the white man's sense of property ownership and the concept of theft. For the Kikuyu helping yourself to the possessions of the white man "was no more robbing than to take the honey from wild bees."
At the heart of the story is the beauty and the challenge of life in Africa in the early 20th Century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars classic autobio of girl's colonial african life May 10 2002
strikingly similar to dineson's 'out of africa', 'flame trees' is a woman-in-colonial-africa's autobiographical memoir, written even more cleanly and elegantly, though from a girl's view. just like dineson, there's only the trace of real plot driving things along, but nonetheless the well-described observations of life on a remote african farm combined with a certain curiousity about how things will end up are compelling enough to carry this book along in a very satisfying way. if not already clear, these two books make very nice companions, and huxley also wrote a second book that's probably worth a look. &, if you start to hanker for this niche but highly worthwhile genre of rare 'adventurous great women writers of the mid-20th century' check out my listmania list.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gem Jan. 14 2002
I absolutely adore this book. Huxley is one of the all time great writers. Her style is simple, and her stories are endearing and sensitive. The setting of colonial Kenya including the plight of the family struggle to settle in East Africa, provides all the material necessary to create a classic. And Huxley does not dissappoint. A pleasure to read and savour - many times over.
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