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Red strangers (1939)

by Elspeth Huxley

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1031215,001 (4.46)5
This text tells of the coming of the British to East Africa in the late 1800s. Following the lives of three generations of a Kikuyu family, Huxley's tale immerses the reader in the language, world view and perceptions of a people whose way of life is changed forever.
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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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This text tells of the coming of the British to East Africa in the late 1800s. Following the lives of three generations of a Kikuyu family, Huxley's tale immerses the reader in the language, world view and perceptions of a people whose way of life is changed forever.

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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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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