I have always had the idea that this book was a love story between two Europeans who move to Africa. I haven’t watched the film, but I know it is a love story, and the book is included in collections of romantic novels year after year, so I was really surprised when I realized that Out of Africa was very far from the story that I had expected.
In the book, the author narrates her experience on her farm in Kenya, especially the issues that came from living together with the local people. People from two tribes, the Kikuyu and the Masai, worked for her in the coffee plantation and baroness Blixen (Isak Dinesen is the pseudonym of baroness Karen Blixen) talks a lot about their different points of view about almost everything, so difficult but so necessary to understand for Europeans if they wanted to make things work and succeed there on the farms.
She also talks about the visitors on the farm: people from every European country who went to that part of the world and couldn’t go back because they fell in love with Africa. They organized expeditions into the wild and I was astonished when I discovered that a woman from Danish high society could hunt lions with her rifle as well as any man.
The only thing missing in this book is just the narrator and author’s personal life. She never gives her opinion about the troubles she is involved in, both with the local people and with the farm; she just tells us what happened and how she dealt with it and this makes you experience that strange country more vividly because you are reading the conversations with the indigenous and you just feel as lost as the author must have felt there. She neither talks about her husband nor about her lover, the Englishmen Denys Finch-Hatton, who is addressed in the book as one of the visitors on the farm without giving away anything else that makes you think they were more than friends. I knew the whole personal story when I read my edition’s prologue – I read the prologues at the end because sometimes it turns out that the prologue tells you the whole story, and then what are you reading the book for? – and I wondered why she didn’t write about anything but the facts of the farm.
The narrative style is very descriptive and the author spends a lot of pages telling you how the scenery or the people were. That makes the book slow but enjoyable if you have enough time to sit down and imagine those hills.
Summarizing, this is more or less an autobiography of Karen Blixen in which you can discover the beautiful landscapes of Africa, where you can have a gazelle as a pet but you also have to take care because a leopard is living in a forest next to your house, and learn about the difficulties of living on a plantation with people who are very different from you.