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.
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).
National Geographic Traveler
This quiet, gently humorous tale weaves the destinies of four principal characters: Mr. Malik is a reserved, brown-skinned bird-lover whose undeclared passion propels the narrative. The object of his affection is red-haired and pale-skinned Rose Mbikwa, longtime leader of the weekly East African Ornithological Society's bird walks. The third character is Mr. Malik's observant, empathetic shamba boy helper, Benjamin. Ruffling this flock's feathers is the flamboyant and carefree Harry Khan, who flies in from North America and incites a romantic rivalry for Rose's attentions.
I hate to bring this up because hand-on-heart I recommend A Guide to the
Birds of East Africa to anyone looking for a slightly quirky and (yes)
immensely charming summer read, but there are too many ornithological
discrepancies for a self-professed avid - some may say 'anoraky' - birder like
me to ignore .... However, I’ve a feeling that the vast majority of the people
who’ll read this book either won’t notice or couldn’t care less anyway. They’ll
be picked up and carried along oblivious and happy, and they’ll be all the
better for it really. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is enjoyable
and entertaining so who really cares whether Mr Drayson's hero spots a coastal
speciality, Fischer’s Greenbul, in his
Nairobi garden? Not many of us I suspect.
A charming love triangle in Nairobi, Kenya, forms the center of a novel that manages to be both sweet and gripping.
A sweet novel in which the reader gets surprisingly caught up in fairly frivolous events.
While the reader is pulled along by the suspense...the glorious sights, sounds, and smells of Nairobi provide lovely rest stops along the way.
Financial Times - Abigail Cheung
In sum, a refreshing, engaging and conversational read.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by JWR Birder's Delight Nicholas Drayson's delightful style of storytelling charms his readers as it lures those who love birds to add his characters to their life lists.
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
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 routes. They occupied Mombasa, one of the
coastal cities, in 1505. The next 200 years were marked by fighting between the
Arabs and Portuguese, with the Arabs eventually prevailing, only to cede control
to the militarily superior British in the late 19th century. In 1895
the area, now called...
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