Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Out of Africa from the Other Woman's Perspective

Growing up on a farm in Kenya, Beryl Markham ran wild with the native boys. Her mother abandoned her when she was a young child returning to London with her older brother. Beryl's father encouraged her to gallop the Thoroughbreds he trained, and Beryl showed a remarkable talent for working with the horses.

All this changed when Beryl's father brought home a housekeeper. Mrs. O tried to turn Beryl into a young lady with remarkably little success. Through a first marriage, Beryle continued to do as she pleased. Eventually, she met Denys Fitch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. Attracted to Denys, Beryl became the third person in the triangle. Much of the book focuses on this love affair.

For me, the best part of this book is the description of Africa. The author writes beautifully of the strange, magnetic country. Most of these descriptions are in the Part One which focuses on Beryl's childhood. In Parts Two and Three, the focus is on relationships although we do get a good description of Beryl's talent as a horse trainer and aviatrix.

Beryl is a complex character. It's hard to like or dislike her. She has many engaging qualities as well as faults. Karen Blixen and Denys Fitch Hatton are also well fleshed out characters. It's interesting to see the triangle from Beryl's perspective as the other woman.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoyed Out of Africa. Even if you're unfamiliar with that book and movie, the book is worth reading for the picture of colonial society and the descriptions of the bush in Kenya.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.