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13 April 2013

Deanna Raybourn: Far in the Wilds

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This is the best prequel novella I have read for a long time. In a few pages Deanna Raybourn was able to conjure up the atmosphere of colonial East Africa just after WWI both socially and environmentally. In the same space she created a great character in Ryder White who is more at home in the wilds of the African bush and chasing the charms of lonely married women than being part of the pleasure-seeking expat colonists of Kenyan society. Raybourn also finds time to sketch out the fascinating character of Ryder's best friend, Jude, who is mourning the loss of her husband in the war.

Ryder was brought up in the wilds of the Canadian Yukon but "Africa chose me....it's a hard place and you can't ever tell when someone comes out if they are going to make it or not." Ryder has made it his world, hunting game. Reluctantly he agrees to take a spoilt Danish Prince and his mistress on safari to kill a rogue black leopard.

This prequel was an introduction to Ryder but it also had a couple of preview chapters of A Spear Of Summer Grass to be released in May which will also feature Delilah Drummond, a notorious and emancipated woman with several ex-husbands who moves to Africa to escape her latest marital problems.

Ryder White reminded me so much of Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) in the movie "Out of Africa", especially his love of the bush and the Masai. His lover, Baroness Blixen (Meryl Streep)finds that Denys is as impossible to own or tame as Africa itself. I wonder if this will happen to Delilah and Ryder.  


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