Christina Lamb's The Africa House is the bestselling account of an English gentleman and his African dream.
In the last decades of the British Empire, Stewart Gore-Brown build himself a feudal paradise in Northern Rhodesia; a sprawling country estate modelled on the finest homes of England, complete with uniformed servants, daily muster parades and rose gardens. He wanted to share it with the love of his life, the beautiful unconventional Ethel Locke King, one of the first women to drive and fly. She, however, was nearly twenty years his senior, married and his aunt. Lorna, the only other woman he had ever cared for, had married another many years earlier. Then he met Lorna's orphaned daughter, so like her mother that he thought he had seen a ghost. It seemed he had found companionship and maybe love - but the Africa house was his dream and it would be a hard one to share.
From a world of British colonials in Africa, with their arrogance and vision, to the final sad denouement. Leaving the once majestic house abandoned and a forgotten ruin of a bygone age Christina Lamb evokes a story full of passion, adventure and final betrayal.
'The story she tells is in equal measure absorbing, affecting and bizarre' Sunday Telegraph
'An amazing story of high hopes, lost love and ruined lives' Sunday Times
Christina Lamb is an award-winning journalist. Currently roving Foreign Affairs Correspondent for the Sunday Times, she has been a foreign correspondent for almost 20 years, living in Pakistan, Brazil and South Africa first for the Financial Times then the Sunday Times. She is the author of the best-selling book The Africa House as well as House of Stone, Waiting For Allah and Small Wars Permitting: Despatches from Foreign Lands.
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It is 1912 in Africa, and a rich young man goes to Northern Rhodesia and creates an idyllic English style of life. But life changes with the political scene in the 1960s and 70s and tragedy hits the family.Review:
On Good Friday in 1914, a young British Army officer named Stewart Gore-Browne first glimpsed a lake in what was then Northern Rhodesia that the local Bemba tribe called Shiwa Ngandu ("Lake of the Royal Crocodiles"). At that moment, a love affair began which would last his lifetime, as the enraptured Gore-Browne set about creating a very British idyll in the African bush, complete with redbrick house and a terrace on which uniformed staff would serve champagne and cocktails. This is the complicated story of a man, his colonial vision, and the burden it became, set against the country in which he battles to realise it.
Christina Lamb has assembled the story from the mass of diaries and correspondence that lay within the now crumbling and neglected house. It is an extraordinary tale that leaps off the page with the grace of a springbok. Gore-Browne initially appears an extinct species, all Harrovian vowels, and prone to pepper with lead shot anything that moves. He is, however, infused with a liberal, humane streak that leads him in later life to support Kenneth Kaunda and the UNIP in their fight for power. Indeed, Kaunda said of him, "... he [Gore-Browne] was born an English gentleman, and died a Zambian gentleman".
Gore-Browne's personal life progressed from an unrequited love to a dramatic marriage, while still indulging in a formidably passionate correspondence with a favourite aunt. There are times when you wish for a timely swipe of the novelist's pen, but it is the nature of this beast that questions remain unanswered; what holds this engrossing chronicle in place is the Africa House itself, and the lives that unfold in and around it, perched incongruously as it is in a country that has outgrown it. --David Vincent
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