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Elspeth Huxley: A Biography

By C. S. Nicholls

This is the first biography of Elspeth Huxley, the renowned writer, broadcaster, conservationist and chronicler of colonial Kenya.

Huxley’s lyrical and evocative memoir The Flame Trees of Thika (1959) became popular worldwide when it was dramatised for television in 1981. Huxley’s writings (30 books in all, including novels, biographies and political accounts) were frequently inspired by Kenya and have great political and social range, from the exploits of the Happy Valley farmers (made famous by James Fox’s book White Mischief), to the lives of poor white farmers and Africans.

After a childhood spent in East Africa and wartime Britain, Elspeth married Gervas, a grandson of Thomas Huxley and cousin to Aldous Huxley, whom she knew well. She also got to know Joy Adamson and the Leakeys. Huxley travelled widely with her husband, although in 1938 she bought a farm in Wiltshire, which she kept until her death in 1997. During World War II she worked for the BBC and her diverse career included a stint as a Kenyan government adviser.

Christine Nicholls’ book is based on Elspeth Huxley’s letters and papers, and the author is familiar with many of the people and places described. It reveals Elspeth Huxley as a compelling personality and a brilliant letter-writer of great energy and purpose. Those who have enjoyed Huxley’s work, and/or have an interest in African history, are bound to enjoy it.

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