A beguiling novel that does for contemporary Kenya and its 1,000 species of birds what Alexander McCall Smiths Ladies Detective series does for Botswana
For the past three years, the widower Mr. Malik has been secretly in love with Rose Mbikwa, a woman who leads the weekly bird walks sponsored by the East African Ornithological Society. Reserved and honorable, Malik wouldn't be noticed by a bystander in a Nairobi streetexcept perhaps to comment on his carefully sculpted combover. But beneath that unprepossessing exterior lies a warm heart and a secret passion.
But just as Malik is getting up the nerve to invite Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball (the premier social occasion of the Kenyan calendar), who should pop up but his nemesis from his school days. The jokester Harry Khan, good-looking in a flashy way and quick of foot, has also become enraptured with the object of Maliks affection. So begins the competition cooked up by fellow members of the Asadi club: whoever can identify the most species of birds in one weeks time gets the privilege of asking Ms. Mbikwa to the ball. Set against the lush Kenyan landscape rich with wildlife and political intrigue, this irresistible novel has been sold in eight countries and is winning fans worldwide.
A Field Guide to the Characters
* SBJ: Birdwatchers shorthand for "Small Brown Job" which includes very many hard-to-identify species all over the world.
'Ah yes,' said Rose Mbikwa, looking up
at the large dark bird with elegant tail
soaring high above the car park of the
Nairobi Museum, 'a black kite. Which is,
of course, not black but
Mr Malik smiled. How many times had he heard Rose Mbikwa say those words? Almost as many times as he had been on the Tuesday morning bird walk. You never know exactly how many kinds of birds you will see on the Tuesday morning bird walk of the East African Ornithological Society but you can be sure to see a kite. Expert scavengers, they thrive on the detritus of human society in and around Nairobi. At his first school sports day (how many years ago was that now - could it really be fifty?) Mr Malik remembered little of the sprinting and javelin throwing and fathers' sack race but he would never forget the kite which swooped down from nowhere to snatch a devilled chicken leg from his very hand. He could still recall the brush of feathers against his face and...
Comparisons to Alexander McCall Smith's novels are
inevitable. Fans of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will not be disappointed in A Guide to the Birds of East Africa. If anything, Birds is better written, with more depth and humor. This book is sure to be
a hit with book clubs, as well as readers looking for a light romance with a bit of a bite.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1269 words).
A Short History of Kenya
The Republic of Kenya is located on the eastern coast of the African continent (map). It is approximately 225,000 square miles (580,000 square kilometers), with a population of 38 million people (2008). The official languages are English & Swahili, and Nairobi is its capital city. Primary exports include coffee and tea.
The area was inhabited from at least 2000 BCE, with its first residents being tribal groups. Arab traders settled in the coastal areas around the 8th century. They developed trade during this time between the Arab world and India, primarily in ivory and slaves.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the region, "discovering" it in 1498 while seeking new trade ...
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