Author: Kuki Gallmann
Publisher: Penguin Books
Published: 1992 (first published by Viking 1991)
This book is about a woman, named Kuki. She has always been fascinated by Africa and one day she goes to live there with her husband Paolo and her son Emanuele. Although it is the place she has waited for all her life, she never dreamed of the pain, passion and joy that was hidden in it's vast beauty.
Motivation of choice
The reason why I chose this book was because I liked the title. It may sound strange but it really got my attention. The reason for this is that I have been in Africa twice and me, my mom and dad travelled through the bush. This really fascinated me: the wild animals gathering at waterbasins to drink, the sound of hyena's and lions at night and the sunset in the evening; it was wonderfull! My mother has travelled through Africa for seven years, hitchhiking, by car, by camel, you name it! By hearing all her stories Africa has become even more special to me.
I didn't know the author Kuki Gallmann, but the subject, Africa, wasn't new to me. I have been there twice myself and the continent is breathtaking! It was interesting to read about Kuki's experiences in Africa and how she felt about it.
The main characters in this book are Kuki, her husband Paolo, her son Emanuele and her daughter Sveva. Kuki has always been fascinated by Africa and one day she meets Paolo. They first become friends, but during a car accident Paolo's wife dies and Kuki is seriously injured. They help each other through this rough period of time and fall in love. Paolo has been in Africa before and he tells Kuki that when she recovers they will go and live there. And so they move to Kenya. From Kuki's first marriage with Mario she has a son: Emanuele, who really becomes attached to Paolo. Emanuele sees him as his father since Mario left Kuki when Emanuele was born. I found it interesting to read about the place where they decide to live. Kuki describes it like paradise: the bush, the wild animals that walk through their yard, all the beautiful things that Africa contains. The relationship between Kuki and Paolo is very strong. They have been through a lot together because of the car accident and while living in Africa they write poems to each other, to express their love. Emanuele has a strong bond with Kuki as well, he is a very bright and helpful boy who really loves his mother. But not only his mother is very valuable to him, his snakes mean a lot to Emanuele as well. He is very fascinated by these reptiles and for his 10th birthday he gets his first snake. Paolo doesn't really like snakes, especially not after he had been bitten by a viper. Paolo rather goes out hunting or fishing with Emanuele. Kuki describes him as a loving and energetic man who loves Africa with all his heart. Kuki has to go through a lot of pain during her life. While carrying Paolo's baby, Sveva, Paolo dies in a car accident. I thought it was fascinating that Kuki knew it happened before she heard the news. I think that in order to know this there has to be a very strong connection between people and I think that Paolo and Kuki were meant for each other. This is why I felt very sorry for Kuki: the man she really loved had died. Then another person who means a lot to her dies, her son Emanuele. His love for snakes kills him as he is bitten by a poisonous puff adder. Emanuele knew this was going to happen. This really touched me, because he was just as old as I am now and he could have done so much with his life. Yet he wanted to take care of his snakes knowing one day this could mean death. Because of Paolo and Emanuele dying, Kuki and Sveva grow very close. Sveva is born right after Paolo is killed and she looks a lot like him. Kuki recognizes her husband in Sveva and a lot of people see Sveva as Paolo.
I think that if a person that is very close dies, I would just like Kuki, get a strong bond with the person that helps me through my grief and this will make me realize that the person that is still near means a lot more to me. I think that when someone you love dies, you become more aware of the fact that you have to treasure the person you love that is still alive. If you do a lot of fun things with this person while alive, you feel that you have done all the things you wanted to do, so you feel you have lived life to the max with that person. In other words, it teaches you about life, to live it to the fullest.
I think the nicest person in this book is Kuki. She is a very brave and loving person whom I really admire. After losing both men she loves, she stays strong and instead of leaving Africa -being all by herself with a baby- she starts as a tribute to their memory the Gallmann Memorial Foundation. With this comes the specific mandate of creating Ol Ari Nyiro, her ranch in Laikipia, as an example of the harmonious coexistence of men and the envirenment, through exploring new ways of combining development and conservation. With a lot of help she even manages to stop the legal trade of ivory! She loves Africa and wants to protect it from being destroyed. She knows all this work isn't in vain, because she does it for her men who loved Africa just as much as she does.
The story starts around 1965, when she meets her first husband and continues through 1989 when both Paolo and Emanuele have died and she has started her foundation. The book needed to take place between these dates because it is autobiographic. It is nice that the story is written recently, because this way I can better relate to it.The problems that were developing while Kuki is living there, have only grown bigger and bigger. I was born in 1982 and by the age of ten I visited Africa for the first time. The ivory trade was still a big problem, still is and therefor many elephants get killed illegally. The rhino is almost extinct, because his horn is very valuable to people in Asia. A lot of people sell ivroy illegally now, but I thought it was good to read that the ivory trade in Kenya was limited with Kuki's help. I think that the problems I just mentioned are really part of the story.
In the beginning of the story you read that animals come to drink. There are lots of rhino's and this gives a good impression of what a beautiful and peaceful place it is. Kuki wants to save the country from being destroyed. She wants to save it and she does so for her men. I think this is one of the reasons why she stays in Africa. She knows she can do a lot for this country and her ranch Ol Ari Nyiro. I have never been in Kenya, although I have been in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. I did know a lot about Kenya because my mother has been there several times and she always tells me stories about it and show me beautiful pictures. This place is really special to Kuki, when Paolo and she were looking for a good place to live and they came upon the ranch, they both knew immediately that this was the place where they wanted to live. Kuki describes is as a beautiful place with a lot of plants and many wild animals surrounding it. It is always nice weather, and you can read how happy she is when it rains. This is funny because we, in Holland, would love to have more sunshine instead of all the rain we get.
Ol Ari Nyiro is really part of the story, because Kuki describes everything that happens on the ranch very detailed. And the dream of being in Africa, surrounded by wild animals came true in Ol Ari Nyiro.
I followed the story through Kuki's eyes. This isn't strange because Kuki wrote this book herself after Paolo and Emanuele died. It is autobiographic and she speaks from the heart, not from the head. She wrote the book in memory of Paolo and Emanuele and in this book she has described all her feelings, her grief, her happiness, everything she felt while living in Africa. I could actually feel the pain she felt. It felt one with Kuki, because she writes so realistic. The way she talks about Paolo, Emanuele, but also about Africa is filled with love. Her two men, but also Ol Ari Nyiro mean a lot to her. I see Paolo as a very loving and energetic husband, who loved Africa with all his heart. I thought it was strange that Kuki writes that she knew in advance that Paolo was going to die and that he told Kuki what he wanted his funeral to be like. The same thing happened with Emanuele. He had told a friend he was going to die and so he did as well. I think they were kind of psychic. Kuki says she can see aura's; so this is how she must have known. I think Emanuele was a real nice boy. Kuki describes him as a friendly guy who had many friends and who was fascinated by snakes.
I think that Kuki wants to show us that Africa is a beautiful continent and that it shouldn't be destroyed. Africa still has what most of the world has lost: beauty and wisdom and in the great mystery of it's nature and extraordinary people, one can find a purpose. We should be careful with the beauty that is left, or else it will all disappear. I think it's a good thing that Kuki wrote this book. I can understand that it was very hard for her to go over all the tragedies again, but the way she talks about Africa is amazing. I think a lot of people realise that it is wrong to cut trees and kill elephants for ivory. Therefore many people help Kuki with her foundation. I became more aware of the problems in Africa. I knew about them, but by living so far away I forgot, but reading this book reminded me of it all and I see that we should keep supporting foundations that help Africa to remain beautiful.
I would really like to read another book by Kuki Gallmann, but I think it couldn't be as pretty as this book. She wrote this straight from the heart; all her feelings are in this book. I have a feeling that her next book would be fiction. I always enjoy reading stories about Africa and it's beauty. I think I am contaminated with the Africa-virus as well! It is a reality! I like to read autobiographies because in these emotions are described much better as people actually experience them themselves. This way you can really become part of the story!
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't very hard to read and Kuki explains and describes Africa, her feelings and all the tragic events that take place in her life, very well. I felt like being part of the story myself; like I was going through all the things Kuki was going through and this is one of the reasons why this book really touched me. I also thought it was fascinating to read how Emanuele treats his snakes. Kuki describes everything so well that I felt like being back in Africa myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about Africa.
I give this book a 9.3!
Africa, land of the wild,
The wind, the sun so high above…
Where animals mate with passionate love
Africa, a land so mild.
Nothing is to be heard during the night
Only stars can be seen shining bright
The land where no one expects the worst
Yet when it strikes, it's all too late
Death comes fast, you are his bait
And after it's rage of feerless outbursts
Covered underneath the earth
The only one to be heard
Is a singing bird.
The reason why I chose to make this poem is that Kuki Gallmann, the author, also writes a lot of poems about Africa and her love for Paolo. She enjoyes writing poems, because she can really express her feelings in them. With this poem I want to show that Africa is very pretty, but also very harsh and when death strikes, because of a desire or because of hunting, the beauty will disappear fast and no animals nor human being will be able to live there anymore. Kuki wants to prevent this from happening with help from her foundation. I think she is doind a marvelous job. Africa should remain beautiful!
Looking back at these two years I feel I have learned a lot. I look at books in a different way now. Before, I would usually read a book and once finished, I wouldn't think about it anymore. I wouldn't think about why certain things happened and whether the author mentioned them for a particular reason. With my English books I really had to take a close look at all the characters, the environment and the way the writer described the stories. To be honest: I really liked it. It is a hell of a job to make these book reports, but after finishing one I always feel very satisfied because I really take time to look at all the different aspects of the book. This way a book becomes much more valuable to me.
I think I made a good choice by chosing the theme 'Love' again, because I had to look at 'love' from different perspectives. I remember that when I had to choose a theme for my first two books I chose 'love' because I thought books about love would be easy to read. I thought love was superficial, but now I know that love has a much deeper meaning. It isn't just a romance between two individuals; it is a feeling that every single person has for someone or something that is very special to him or her.
Like I said before: making a book report like this is a lot of work, but it's time well spent. I really enjoyed it!