Elspeth Huxley: A Biography

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9780002571654: Elspeth Huxley: A Biography

The first biography of the renowned writer, broadcaster, conservationist and chronicler of colonial Kenya, whose lyrical and evocative memoir The Flame Trees of Thika (1959) achieved worldwide fame when made into a television drama series in 1981.

Colonial Kenya inspired three great writers – Karen Blixen (Out of Africa), Beryl Markham (West with the Night) and Elspeth Huxley. Huxley’s writings (30 books in all: novels, biographies, political accounts) have great political and social range, encompassing (in her Kenyan books) the exploits of the Happy Valley farmers – made famous by James Fox’s book White Mischief, poor white farmers and the lives of Africans alike.

After a childhood spent in East Africa and wartime Britain, Elspeth married Gervas, a grandson of Thomas Huxley and cousin to Julian and Aldous Huxley, whom she knew well. She also later got to know Joy Adamson and the Leakeys. She travelled widely with her husband (an executive with the Empire Marketing Board) and wrote while constantly on the move. She worked for the BBC in World War II and became a Kenyan government adviser. In 1938 she bought a farm in Wiltshire, where she died in 1997.

The author, Christine Nicholls, has access to all her letters and papers, and is familiar with many of the people and places in the book. Elspeth Huxley was a compelling personality and a brilliant letter-writer, extraordinarily energetic and effective in everything she did.

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Review:

'C S Nicholls interweaves this personal tale with the intriguing social and political history of colonial Kenya...accomplished.' -- Sunday Times, 21 April 2002

'I recommend this excellent biography to anybody who cares for Huxley's books and for Kenya.' - Aidan Hartley -- Literary Review, April 2002

'She [Nicholls] is a wonderfully well-informed authority about the externals of the life - the dates, the events, the who and the where of it all...scrupulous.' -- New Statesman, 6 May 2002

'well-organised and thoroughly researched' -- Daily Telegraph, 20 April 2002

From the Back Cover:

Elspeth Huxley, who died in 1997, is chiefly remembered for her lyrical and evocative memoir The Flame Trees of Thika, which achieved worldwide fame for a second time when made into a television drama series in 1981. Yet Flame Trees was only one of the thirty books she wrote, and it took just a few months of her remarkably active life to compose.

A woman of compelling personality, exceptionally energetic and effective in everything she did, Elspeth Huxley was not only a celebrated writer, but a farmer, broadcaster, journalist, conservationist, political thinker, magistrate and government advisor. She was a vivid chronicler of colonial Kenya, and became increasingly recognised as an observer and interpreter of African affairs over a period of profound change. Initially a staunch defender of the white settlers, she would come to support moves towards African independence.

After a childhood spent in East Africa and wartime Britain, Elspeth married a grandson of Thomas Huxley and cousin of Julian and Aldous Huxley, whom she knew well. Her wide circle also later included George and Joy Adamson, the Leakeys and Peter Scott (whose biography she wrote). Whatever their subject, her books reveal the adventurousness, warmth, perception and occasional astringency which made up her own personality; they are also notable for their acute observation and great social range, encompassing the lives of Kenya's poor white farmers, the frivolous Happy Valley set and Africans alike.

For this, the first biography of Elspeth Huxley, CS Nicholls has made extensive use of her papers and letters – including those to and from Elspeth's formidable mother Nellie and her hapless father Jos. Elspeth Huxley: A Biography is not merely a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary woman, but an absorbing account of a whole era of colonial and British history.

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Nicholls, C. S.
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