THE AFRICA HOUSE: The True Story of an English Gentleman and His African Dream

Christina Lamb, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-073587-6

Shiwa House is a magnificent, dilapidated rural estate in Zambia: built in the early years of the 20th century and resembling an English ancestral home, it was "completely... out of place in this remote corner of the African bush," writes Lamb, a journalist and author of the highly praised Sewing Circles of Herat . Her narrative, spanning more than half of the 20th century, not only reconstructs Shiwa House's original glory but details the intimate world of its builder, the egotistical Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, whom President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia honored with a state funeral in 1967. Concentrating on the evolution of Gore-Browne's nostalgically conceived estate in a remote outpost of British colonial Northern Rhodesia, Lamb evokes the beauty of the unspoiled countryside, its teeming wildlife, Gore-Browne's love of hunting, his friendly relations with locals and his eccentric attempt to model his estate on that of his cherished Aunt Ethel in England. Lamb recounts Gore-Browne's romantic affections for his beautiful, older married aunt and his equally perverse marriage to the much younger daughter of an old flame; his largely unsuccessful political campaigns; and his unexpectedly wholehearted support of Zambian independence. The narrative is engaging and well crafted, although Lamb's attempts at dramatizing her subjects' emotional lives sometimes read like a romance novel, and her narrow focus on the house's history obscures the wider context of waning British empire. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. Agent, David Godwin. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-06-073588-3
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-14-026834-8
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