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Red strangers by Elspeth Huxley
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Red strangers (1939)

by Elspeth Huxley

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The story of 3 generations of a Kikuyu family as thier land is slowly colonized by Europeans. The success of the novel is in the perspective of the Kikuyu clan. You become so used to their way of life that the ways and rules and invasion of the Europeans makes even less sense than you would imagine. Each time I find a new book by Elspeth Huxley, I want to find another. Apprently this has been out of print for some time but recently has been reissued. A very good decsion and a thoughtful read.
  amyem58 | Jul 11, 2014 |
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Book description
In Red Strangers, Huxley constructs a history of four generations of a Kenyan Kikuyu family from the years immediately preceding the arrival of British colonialism through the late 1930s. Historic events like WWI, the Influenza Epidemic, and in an almost eerier anticipation of things to come, the increasing resistance to the British that would eventually result in independence, serve, consequently, as a backdrop to the characters' drama. We see segments of the family reduced to poverty and galling frustration by the invasion while others.adapt with amazing speed to the new circumstances, exploiting the British even as they are corrupted by them to establish wealthy dynasties that are strangely prophetic, given what was to happen in British Africa in the years following independence.

The real fascination with the novel, however, is her portrait of the Kikuyu immediately before the British invasion. While disclaiming any expertise in anthropology, she uses and identifies, besides her memory of her own experiences, impeccable secondary sources to build a thoroughly comprehensible and sympathetic picture of the logic behind Kikuyu society. With her help, the reader comes to understand magic, "witchcraft," bride prices, honoring ancestors, familial obligations and an economy that is based on the worth of a goat instead of a precious metal, and this without the usual Western value judgemenu that accompany most fictional and early scientific writing about "primitives" and "savages." There is not a hint of the usual, "isn't this quaint, curious, or strange what these 'primitives' will do?" She has an objective, to make a statement for a people, now largely gone, who "cannot present their point of view to us because they cannot express it in terms we can understand" (viii). She makes her point convincingly: the Kikuyu had a well ordered, logical social arrangement without the benefits of western "civilization."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141188502, Paperback)

Growing up in Kenya in the early twentieth century, the brothers Matu and Muthegi are raised according to customs that, they are told, have existed since the beginning of the world. But when the red' strangers come, sunburned Europeans who seek to colonize their homeland, the lives of the two Kikuyu tribesmen begin to change in dramatic new ways. Soon, their people are overwhelmed by unknown diseases that traditional magic seems powerless to control. And as the strangers move across the land, the tribe rapidly finds itself forced to obey foreign laws that seem at best bizarre, and that at worst entirely contradict the Kikuyu's own ancient ways, rituals and beliefs.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Growing up in Kenya in the early twentieth century, the brothers Matu and Muthegi are raised according to customs that, they are told, have existed since the beginning of the world. But when the 'red' strangers come, sunburned Europeans who seek to colonize their homeland, the lives of the two Kikuyu tribesmen begin to change in dramatic new ways. Soon, their people are overwhelmed by unknown diseases that traditional magic seems powerless to control. And as the strangers move across the land, the tribe rapidly finds itself forced to obey foreign laws that seem at best bizarre, and that at worst entirely contradict the Kikuyu's own ancient ways, rituals and beliefs.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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