The British Empire Library

Isak Dinesen: Letters from Africa 1914-1931

by Isak Dinesen

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by H.M.S.
Those East African hands who, like this writer, have long admired Karen Blixen's evocative and skilfully written story of life on her coffee plantation in the Ngong hills between 1913 and 1931, will be glad to know that not only have Penguin brought out a new edition (as they have, too, of Elspeth Huxley s companion, as it were, autobiographical novel "The Flame Trees of Thika", presented as an ITV serialisation), but that Weidenfeld & Nicholson have just published a splendid translation of Karen Blixen's letters written from Africa (Isak Dinesen was, of course, her pen-name).

Few foreigners have fallen so totally under the spell of Kenya as Karen Blixen. She was as much at home entertaining a group of Somali women to tea as the Prince of Wales to dinner -- the latter was more difficult, as Baroness Blixen could not easily find enough of what she considered suitable women guests. "I have a feeling," she once wrote to her mother, "that wherever I rnay be in the future I will be wondering whether there is rain at Ngong." It is the kind of thought that must come back to many "ex-Kenyans", as we pensively prune our roses in Cheltenham or Tunbridge Wells or make a leisurely pot of tea in Devon, Dorset or Dollar.

This is a splendid book, as overwhelmingly nostalgic for us as Kenya was to Karen Blixen, and one that every "Kenyan" will want to make sure his local library has.

British Empire Book
Anne Borne
Weidenfeld & Nicholson


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