Happy Valley by Nicholas Best is a thoroughly entertaining and easy to read historical account of the English people in Kenya, from the first white explorers in 1883 to the late 1960s.
Written with a deliciously dry sense of humour, the book quite often descends into pure gossip. A sentence on page 2 neatly sums up the English people of that era and place, “As well as immense self-confidence, he possessed an abundance of the quality which, above all else, had served to bring one quarter of the world under British domination: a total inability to appreciate the gravity of the danger lying ahead.”
This clever book provides substantial background on the crème of white Kenyan society of the time – Karen Blixen, the Baden-Powells, the first railway men, big game hunters, con men and the younger sons of British nobility sent to Africa before they brought more shame upon their families. Adventurers, the Boer War, tribal uprisings and those white settlers who thrived in the wide open plains of Kenya, are all lovingly detailed here. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway also found solace and inspiration whilst visiting Kenya.
Recommended for lovers of British exploration.
Review by Belinda Coombs,
Member of the SMSA Mystery & Crime Reading Group