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."