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on April 17, 2015
A beautifully written memoir of the seventeen years that Karen Blixen spent in Kenya between 1914 and 1931. Very interesting on many levels not the least of which are her observations of the various races who comprised Kenyan society.
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on August 8, 2002
Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) has been elevated to star status by the feminists for her independent stance and courage, but don't read this book because of that. Don't look for the tragic story of her misguided marriage and the heartbreak and barrenness it brought her, or for descriptions of her love affair with adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton. None of that appears here.
Instead, "Out of Africa" is a storytelling book woven in the imaginative Danish style. Dinesen's finely tuned sensitivity is revealed here, as well as her (again typically Danish) well-developed gift for friendship with many kinds of people. In her case this gift extends to African animals as well, like Lulu, the beautiful gazelle who graced her plantation for years.

Her descriptions of the Kenya of her day are exquisitely written, factual and magical at the same time. Africa is the star of the book, not Dinesen herself, not the tribespeople or the colonials, not her struggles with raising coffee in land "a little too high", nor her political dealings with the government officials. Her writing evokes the Africa she knew well and loved deeply.
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on December 22, 2013
This book is definitely not the script for the movie of the same name. It is a wonderful personal account by a women who ran a 6,000 acre farm on the outskirts of Nairobi in the early part of the 20th century. The book provides a wonderful insight into the trials of the time as well as the colonial social structure that has not survived to our modern times. It is easy to see how author Karen Blixen would be an attractive subject for a screenwriter.
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on December 31, 2001
After reading this book, Hemingway said in an interview that Dinesen is more deserving of the Nobel prize. It should be remembered that this remark did not come from a modest man, but from someone who was fond of talking about beating Tolstoy in the ring, having defeated Stendhal. Nor, for that matter, was Hemingway known for respecting women.
But being a learned and disciplined writer,Hemingway was after all able to appreciate good stuff when he saw it. Literary excellence is rare indeed, and here, in this book, you have it in the unadulterated form. Dinesen undoubtedly had something to say, but more importantly the means--or should I say the genius--to say it. Out of Africa would do very well as a textbook of English prose. Now in some of the other reviews I found words like "colonial," "racist," "conservationist," and so on. Of course, the reader should not be distracted by these words, but read the book first and form her independent opinion. Meanwhile, my opinion, clearly personal and subjective and limited by my time and place and social class and sex (oops,i mean gender) and whatever you'd like, is that these reviewers don't know what they are talking about. So buy this book and forget about them. Or if you don't want to take the risk, borrow it from the library first. Then you'll want to buy it.
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on November 16, 2013
The novel, Out of Africa is a personal account by the author of her 17 years living in Kenya and running her coffee plantation. There are substantial differences between this account and the movie that was based on this account and other sources. I particularly enjoined the language used by Karen Blixen which was probably typical of the times, and the fact that her various discourses often focussed on the indigenous people who lived there and who worked for her during these years. It is a wonderful snapshot of the era.
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on May 8, 2003
Isak Dinesen's novel Out of Africa is a recollection of her time spent in Africa while struggling to cope with the immensely different cultures and struggling to run a coffee farm at too high of an altitude. This book is a collection of her stories most of them about her adventures shared with lover Denys Finch-Hatton. Many of the stories are very dangerous, like when they go lion hunting. These stories show the wild side that Dinesen posses. These stories are in no chronological order and at times make the book hard to follow. The best part of the book is the astounding imagery used. The imagery describes the breathtaking views from the on top the Ngong hills and allows you to feel the lack of oxygen, smell the coffee plants and feel the strong African sun beating down upon your skin. The down side to this book is, even after experiencing many adventurers with Dinesen you will probably feel that you do not know much about her personality. This is due to lack of character development since she is telling the story and never describes herself. You do however learn about the struggle she faces being a European woman living in a minority, in a place with very different and diverse cultures. She has to adapt to these cultures and even though she finds her European traditions very different from those of the Africans, she realizes that there is some common ground between the two. Even though this book can be at times hard to follow I highly recommend reading it. The magnificent imagery makes up for the down sides to the book and causes you to realize why Dinesen fell in love with Africa. You will probably find yourself falling in live with Africa and its people just as Dinesen did. A truly remarkable book.
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Baroness Karen Blixen's famous memoir of her years on the coffee plantation high above Nairobi is significant for her description of what today's Kenya was like in the early part of the 20th century, for the book's influence for attracting and shaping the reactions of many who followed her to Kenya like Dr. Jane Goodall, and her engaging personality for taking on the challenges, trials, and problems of others while grasping their perspective on her. Although a progressive thinker for her day, sex, and class, nevertheless Ms. Blixen's views on the native Africans will not sit well with most modern readers (from referring to men who worked for her as "boys" to her inclination toward seeing native Africans as perpetually apart from the machine-inventing and using Europeans). Conservationists will be appalled by the casual shooting of lions who might have been chasing domesticated cattle.
The book is also notable for its lack of organization, often scanty details, and rapidly shifting focus. There are several places about 70 percent of the way through the book where you will wonder why she included the material at all, and even more why there in that particular spot.
The book's ultimate appeal is to the concept of being a young woman on her own in a beautiful part of African with the freedom and resources to explore herself and Africa.
I should like to have known her. A woman with such warmth and empathy for others must surely have made a wonderful friend. There's an element of Don Quixote in her as she pursues her impossible dream of a coffee plantation in the wrong place that's also appealing.
After you finish reading the book, I suggest that you think about where you could go today and have such a close connection to your new neighbors. Would you like to do that? What would you be willing to give up for this emotional resonance?
See yourself as others probably see you! Let humility be your guide.
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on August 1, 2001
Out of Africa is an literary accomplishment that will remain in history as portraying Africa as it really was in that era. Karen Blixen was so in touch with the native tribes of Kenya. Her deep respect for their customs and lives is obvious in this book, which wasn't common then among the new European settlers. The way that her fascinating stories unfold is remarkable, making long hours of the night spent trying to put the book down without success.
I saw Out of Africa as a child, and read the book in college, which inspired me to go to Kenya when I graduated. I visited the land that Karen Blixen donated upon her departure from Kenya, which was turned into a town named "Karen", and her home and everything in it have been preserved, down to the lantern she would leave on for Finch-Hatton. Still today the town's people speak of Karen Blixen in great admiration, perhaps giving back what she unconditionally gave to them.
I would recommend this book to anyone who knows how to read!
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on November 10, 2000
A quintessential, lyrical love poem to East Africa. Karen Blixen's years of joy, discovery and struggle unfold beautifully in "Out of Africa"...which she wrote years later (under the pseudonym Isak Denesen) after returning to her native Denmark. What is absent from the book which one finds in the Oscar-winning film are the relationship struggles with her long-time companion Dennys Finch Hatton. Here she keeps her focus on the many friends, employees and characters she met along the way in the operation of her coffee plantation during the early 1900s...and avoids writing romantically about Finch Hatton. Her love affair with Africa though is beautifully and eloquently expressed throughout "Out Of Africa." Those readers who may be interested in reading more about her and Finch Hatton might be interested in reading her "Letters From Africa."
"Out Of Africa" is essential reading for those contemplating a journey to Kenya or Tanzania. It reads like a very colorful and sometimes haunting work of fiction, and is all the more fascinating because this remarkable woman and writer actually experienced it all.
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on October 21, 2000
I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the North, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold. -Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Why is it do you suppose, that these should be among the most moving and recognizable opening lines in all of literature? I used to think that they lingered in memory just because of the creepy way that Meryl Streep recites them in the movie. But even contemporaneous reviews often mentioned their haunting quality. I think that ultimately it must be because the book is so specifically about a unique time and place and that this introduction serves to place us there so completely. That after all is what makes the book special, the way that it captures, in minute detail, the brief moment of Colonial splendor in Kenya and turns it into something out of a fairy tale.
Of course, we now know that Isak Dinesen's version of this colony is in fact more mythical than factual--that she was actually Karen Blixen, that in reality the husband who is virtually nonexistent in these pages gave her venereal disease, that Hatton-Finch was not just a buddy but a lover and that the natives, for all her seeming love and respect for them, probably would not appreciate the way she continually compares them to animals. And it is because we know all these things that a book which when it was written seemed merely elegiac now seems truly deluded. But despite all that we've learned in the intervening years, it remains, on it's own terms, a beautiful and heartrending book. I actually prefer Beryl Markham's similar but superior African memoir West With the Night (1941) (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+), but this one's well worth reading too.
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