Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton

Sara Wheeler, Author . Random $27.95 (292p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6069-6

A superlative athlete with an enormous capacity for friendship and a chronically underachieving, charismatic loner with eternal wanderlust, Denys Finch Hatton (1887–1931) emerged as an iconic figure in the memoirs of two lovers, Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and Beryl Markham's West with the Night . In childhood, this earl's son—who would later reject the trappings of worldly success, saw his family fortune depleted, developed a passion for hunting from a nonconformist uncle as well as an appreciation for strong, artistic women like his mother—found Eton a "youthful paradise," says Wheeler, hat made it possible for him "to believe in the African dream." The nonconformist in him was drawn to the freedom the Dark Continent promised; after settling in East Africa, he fought on the WWI battlefield there and later became a hunter shepherding rich clients. Hatton, who died when the plane he was piloting crashed, left no diaries and his inner life remains unknowable, as Wheeler (Cherry ) acknowledges, yet in this thoughtful, satisfying work, she masterfully captures his allure through the memories of others and through her deft interpretation of both his East African and British milieus in the tumultuous years surrounding WWI. Photos. (Apr. 24)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
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