This is that rare thing an original, authentic and unvarnished view of Africa as told by an unbiased, idealistic yet pragmatic witness. This is a highly individual and admittedly European perspective but it may be more useful to establish here what it is not. It is not a travelogue, a sentimental sightseeing safari; it is not sensationalist journalism; nor is it a political manifesto with the familiar pre-packed conclusions; not an 'I was there' self-congratulatory and self-important tale of heroism, not another empty instalment of the New Age agenda. Rather, it is a factual, human (originally diarised) account of a remarkable and ultimately tragic adventure which took place in the unfamiliar, remote region of Western Kenya, deep in the emerald green forest on the slopes of Mount Elgon and close to Lake Victoria. Here, in the most densely populated yet least known, least 'developed' part of Kenya, there existed (still exists) a world remarkably untouched by western influence. This provides the backdrop to the couple's valiant efforts to establish a livelihood - through farming, then building and running a hotel (with a bit of gold-panning thrown in for fun) and finally pioneering a new form of enterprise in the form of mushroom cultivation. The scenes towards the end of the book (glimpsed in the opening chapter), of the couple literally fleeing the threat of mob violence, is as gripping as any fiction, with all the vividness and stark brutality we associate with the worst side of Africa, all the more powerful for its gradual build up through the story and, of course, its utter veracity.
This is a good antidote for the all too numerous superficial, lightweight and stereotypical pot-boilers coming off the press and jumping into airport terminal bookstalls (where they belong). Beautifully written, keenly observed and with a true sense of narrative, I found it hard to put down once caught up in the unerringly convincing and intensely human story.