The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

  • Title: The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood
  • Author: Elspeth Huxley
  • ISBN: 9780712666138
  • Page: 266
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Flame Trees of Thika Memories of an African Childhood In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya As pioneering settlers among the Kikuyu people they built a house of grass ate off a damask cloth spread over pack
    In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya As pioneering settlers among the Kikuyu people, they built a house of grass, ate off a damask cloth spread over packing cases and discovered the hard way the world of the African.

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    About Elspeth Huxley


    1. Elspeth Joscelin Huxley CBE was a polymath, writer, journalist, broadcaster, magistrate, environmentalist, farmer, and government advisor She wrote 30 books but she is best known for her lyrical books The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard which were based on her experiences growing up in a coffee farm in Colonial Kenya Nellie and Major Josceline Grant, Elspeth Grant s parents, arrived in Thika in what was then British East Africa in 1912, when she was 5 years old, to start a life as coffee farmers and colonial settlers Flame Trees explores how unprepared for rustic life the early British settlers really were Elspeth was educated at a whites only school in Nairobi.She left Africa in 1925, earning a degree in agriculture at Reading University in England and studying at Cornell University in upstate New York Elspeth returned to Africa periodically, becoming the Assistant Press Officer to the Empire Marketing Board in 1929 She married Gervas Huxley, a cousin of Aldous Huxley in 1931 They had one son, Charles, who was born in February 1944 She resigned her post in 1932 and traveled widely She was appointed an independent member of the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland the Monckton Commission An advocate of colonialism early in life, she later called for independence for African countries In the 1960s, she served as a correspondent for the National Review magazine.Most of Elspeth Huxley s writing reflects on her experiences growing up in Kenya and her continued interest in African development Her output includes both novels and non fiction autobiography, travel writing, political exposition, biography, and journalism, produced throughout the latter half of the twentieth century her book publishing career alone spanned than sixty years Sympathising from the beginning with the white settlers and increasingly with the black Africans, with a professional background in agriculture as well as journalism, she became a skilled interpreter of Africa to the world outside, even while remembering that no person of one race and culture can truly interpret events from the angle of individuals who belong to a different race and culture This has not exempted her from later strong critique of her racial attitudes attitudes which were normal, nearly inescapable, for her generation, her race, and her colonial identity.As a professional she prided herself on being able to turn her pen to anything Her polemical writing on environmental issues, for instance, deserves to be better known.


    324 Comments


    1. "The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood" by Elspeth Huxley, is an absolutely lovely recollection of childhood as it should be for every child. The daughter of two financially strapped, adventurous, and eternally optimistic parents, Elspeth recounts life in Thika in the bush of Kenya, where she spent her youth amongst the Kikuyu and Masai. She lived with nature, with superstitions, with death and love, and certainly writes about it all with great equanimity. She is able to cap [...]

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    2. Read this several times over the years and also watched the BBC series which I just love. Never got around to reviewing the book, but recently my sister handed me her copy of the sequel, The Mottled Lizard, so I figured it was about time. Elspeth Huxley just knows how to write. It is the beginning of the end of British cultivation (?) of the African frontier. It is the clash of cultures, religions, sexes, ages, and times—just before the outbreak of WWI. Everything has come together but there i [...]

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    3. In 1913, when the author was six years old, she and her mother and father went to British East Africa (B.E.A.) to start a coffee plantation. This was nearly 100 years ago, when that area was mostly unsettled. Her father bought some property, sight unseen, in the middle of nowhere among the Kikuyu people. This book was especially fascinating for me because everything was so incredibly different from modern times. The story is very simply told from her very early memories, although I suspect she m [...]

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    4. I seem to be one of the few readers who didn't love this tale of a young British family trying to start a coffee plantation in British East Africa (Kenya) in the period 1912-1914, their friendships with the other British colonials, and their interactions with the Kikuyu and Masai people who lived nearby, or worked for them. Actually, it completely bored me.There was also something mildly unsettling about the narrator's "voice:" she's writing the memoir as an adult, about 50 years after the event [...]

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    5. Ever get to the end of a book and contemplate flipping back to the first page and starting all over again? This is a book whose world I just want to continue living in but, like the ending of a book, is a world that just doesn't exist anymore. So much of the book, though it deals with people trying to start a new frontier life in Africa, is really about the ending of things, specifically the end of old Europe with the onset of World War 1.Elspeth, in the last chapter, writes about how she realiz [...]

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    6. When we were kids we played in a field down the street from our house. If memory serves correctly (always a joke when it comes to my memory) the space was almost entirely undeveloped, so there was ample space for us to run and play. We rode our bikes down there, we chased butterflies, we caught bugs for science projects; I won't speak for my brothers or the friends I played with, but I also spent time down there letting my imagination go absolutely effing wild.Reading Elspeth Huxley's memoirs of [...]

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    7. This is meant to be a memoir. Unlike other memoirs/diaries/correspondence that some GR readers think are novels, this one really is a novel presented as a memoir. We are told it covers the years when she was aged five to eight. How could a child as young as Elspeth supposedly is during the action, hear those detailed adult conversations and remember them, let alone comprehending what was going on? It's excellently well written, and one could argue that the author talked to people as an adult and [...]

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    8. [image error]video blurb - When a young Edwardian family leaves the shores of England to build a home in the wilderness of East Africa, what they encounter is beyond their imagination, but forever remembered by their 11-year-old daughter.Based on the beloved memoir by Elspeth Huxley, THE FLAME TREES OF THIKA brings to life the color and adventure of another place and time. In 1913, Robin and Tilly Grant (Hayley Mills) arrive in Kenya with the dream of transforming a barren plot of land into a th [...]

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    9. A memoir of the author's childhood in Thika, a farm area outside Nairobi in colonial Kenya, just prior to World War I in 1913 when the author was six years old. Her quirky parents traveled from England to Thika to start a coffee plantation. In the early 20th century, the area was a mosaic of English, Scottish, and Dutch settlers trying to carve out a place among the native Kikuyu and Masai tribes. Sometimes the two worlds intersected, but rarely did they blend.Huxley looks back on her family's a [...]

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    10. This book reminded me a little bit of Little House on the Prairie with some adult bits thrown in. The main character is a young girl who comes to Kenya with her parents so that they can do the pioneering thing: working with the Kikuyu and Masai, planting coffee, grafting fruit trees, swapping spouses. Meanwhile the little girl waxes poetic about killer ants that can only be avoided with ashes, her pony, buffaloes, war dances, murder, and snippets of the adult world. Her view of Africa is somewha [...]

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    11. Huxley writes lyrically and perceptively about growing up in British East Africa. What I like most about this book is that it captures the wonder and curiosity of a young child quite convincingly. Huxley does a marvelous job bringing the Kikuyu and Masai people to life, and she does an equally impressive job portraying the wildlife and natural environment. This is a book filled with wonder. It's a very sensory book -- one can almost see, hear, smell, and taste Africa. Another aspect of the book [...]

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    12. I enjoyed this memoir very much. I did think it odd that Huxley referred to her parents by their first names. I also have reservations that at 6 or 7 she remembered things that clearly but I suppose every good book depends on good research.

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    13. *Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance during Ashford April (April 2013).In the late twenties, Kenya became known for it's "Happy Valley." A place of paradise and pleasure, where you could start your life over a make a fortune in coffee or dairy. But to those who settled there before the first world war, it was an entirely different world. In 1913 Elspeth Huxley's family moved to Thika to start a coffee plantation. They had heard there where fortunes to be made only co [...]

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    14. I'm so glad that I picked up an illustrated edition of this book, as it helped with my wild imagination while reading of Elspeth's adventures. KUDOS to the illustrator Francesca Pelizzoli. Elspeth Huxley and her family travel to Thika, East Africa in 1907 to cultivate coffee crops. They had no idea what was in store for them. To read about the tribes of Africa and their customs and all the crazy adventures, not to mention the hardships was just so intriguing. A really good read that had me going [...]

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    15. I really enjoyed this book and though it was slightly slow at the beginning it hooked me emotionally in the end. The plot took a long time to unfold and was slightly uninteresting at the but then became very interesting towards the end.

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    16. The voice of this book is just pure charm. It's one of those books that, despite the historical injustices implicit in its premise, is irresistible to me along the same lines that little house on the prairie is irresistible: the inherent drama and adventure of settling and establishing a farm in a "wild" country. In this case, the story is a slightly fictionalized version of Huxley's family in the late 1910s, after they impetuously buy a plot of bush at Thika outside of Nairobi on which to estab [...]

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    17. I spent some time in Kenya in 1996, when I was just a teen, on a mission trip with my church. We spent most of our time in a tiny village called Kibwezi without electricity (but we had running water!), and we lived in tents for a month while we helped out at the polytechnic we sponsored and helped build new classrooms from native brick. It's one of my most cherished memories, and so I love to read books on Kenya throughout its history.I absolutely wanted to love this book. I don't know whether i [...]

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    18. From page one of The Flame Trees of Thika I knew I’d stumbled across an incredibly observant and eloquent writer. Huxley succeeds in helping the reader taste, smell and see Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a stroke of brilliance to write this book from the point of view of a small child. Obviously the book’s descriptions and insights into human nature are far beyond the powers of a child to communicate, but the child-as-narrator was a powerful tool because the author was ab [...]

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    19. I had been searching for this book for a few years after reading an article about the author-she lived a full and adventurous life. It had also mentioned her childhood in Africa and I have been drawn to stories of Africa since reading the book West With the Night years ago. Well at last I found the book at a reasonable price and settled down to enjoy. The writing style was strange-it was sort of written in the first person but not always. She seemed to mostly refer to her parents by their first [...]

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    20. This was a pleasant read for me. Written nearly 50 years after the life events described in this memoir, it seems to me that Huxley did significant filling in of details and dialog that couldn't have been pure memory. By doing this, Huxley made her "memoir" so much more interesting and very readable, but I can't consider it to be purely non-fiction, although it is listed as such. It is hard to imagine what life was like for this family, and other settlers of that time and place, who came to Brit [...]

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    21. I could not put this childhood adventure down.glected everything today. complete this book!When I read the last sentence,I knew I'd joined the author on her journey!Elspeth Huxley writes in plain sentence form of her experience in British East Africa aka Kenya of present day. the foothills of Mt Kenya.She traveled with her parents to Thika in Kenya to live among the Kikuyu tribe where the houses were built of grass.Yet,she dined & had tea off a damask cloth spread over packing cases as if sh [...]

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    22. I picked this book up randomly in a used book store without understanding how prolific or important Huxley was as a writer. As the back cover of my edition states, this is more of a re-creation than an exact account (along the lines of the Little House series), but, given her skill as a writer, I prefer the re-creation. (Although how this child happens to always just happens to be in a position to overhear adults carrying on their love affairs gets a little ridiculous about two-thirds in.) The t [...]

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    23. In 1971 I had the good fortune of spending six weeks studying in Kenya and Tanzania, some of the same places that the author lived and wrote about. Reading this book today, almost a century after it was written, the changes that have taken place are not only shocking but tremendously sad. Native Africans lived for centuries in the area, taking only what they needed to live on. The land belonged to all which is why the English (and other Europeans) felt that they could take whatever they wanted a [...]

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    24. The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood" by Elspeth Huxley, is a delightful book, about a girl who goes from England to Kenya at age six, where her parents run a coffee plantation. The book describes an idyllic childhood, just as I think it should be for any child. I do have some bias in that I grew up in northern Tanzania for fourteen years, so the experiences Elspeth wrote about were vivid and realistic, especially in her experiences with the Kikuyu and Masaai tribal people. [...]

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    25. One of my all time favorite books. I discovered this memoir when I was a young girl and I saw the BBC production/mini series. I read the source book back then and loved it. I read it again recently and still loved it. Both a portrait of Africa during imperialism, the struggle of the settlers in their harsh surroundings, and a coming of age story for a young girl. Many aspects of the book are not very politically correct but they reflect the feelings of the turn of the century when this occurred. [...]

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    26. A memoir, written much later in life, of the author as a six year old, arriving in Kenya with her parents in 1913. The story follows her life for a few years, before her father leaves for the war and she and her mother return to England.At the time Thika was a remote area of Kenya, and their neighbours were other settlers, English, Scottish, Dutch and South African. There were of course native people in the area.Written with the author as a child, she displays the childlike naivety in some areas [...]

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    27. I enjoyed this book immensely. The story of a family and their life being cut out of raw African land, as seen through a child's eyes. The setting is early 20th century before WWI, about the same time Isak Dinensen was at her farm in the Ngong hills. Hardly roads or any comforts; all had to be done by the family. One important observation that struck me was how in this case the English, who came to bring culture, religion and government to the savages, were really upsetting the course of life of [...]

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    28. Loved it! Like Out of Africa, it takes place in a bygone age; one in which I wish I could have participated. This is also a memoir but told from the point of view of the author as a young girl. Her naivete makes the story much more appealing than it would have been if told from an adult perspective. It, too, is idealized. I doubt any of the black Africans would have been as enamored of the colonists had they been the authors. But, since I'm about to head off on Safari in Zimbabwe in a couple of [...]

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    29. This is basically "Ann of Green Gables" meets 1900s Colonial Africa. The memoirs of growing up British, on a plantation, pre-WW I, with all the expectations of upper crust British society meeting the African natives, their life styles and customs is truly culture clash. This was made into a Masterpiece Theater presentation (Hayley Mills was the mother).good read and the history you learn is painless. The Mottle Lizard, the conclusion, is also very goodbut I prefer the Flame Trees best.

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    30. So good! I have a weird thing for books about white people in Africa (Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Out of Africa, The Poisonwood Bible), and this is a new favorite. Huxley is a lovely writer and is especially good at recounting adult situations from a child's perspective. Plus, the love story between Lettice and Ian Crawfurd KILLS me.

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