This is quite a book, written at the time it s set Ruark holds nothing back as he describes the unimaginable barbarism ultimately both sides resort to during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s Brutality on full display, from a brutal time on a brutal continent. One of the books that made a lasting impression on me, first read fifty years ago, written by a man who actually experienced life in Africa, and particularly, Kenya, firsthand His narrative of the lives of two childhood friends, one a white Englishman and one a native black Kikuyu, tells the story of the violent Mau Mau uprising against provincial English rule in the mid 1950s It is not a book for the faint of heart or the squeamish, but from other accounts I have read of Africa from the same period, it is quite accurate As one would expect, the two main characters cannot and do not remain friends one will not survive but the main thrust of the story is not really about the two individuals but rather about the clash of two cultures, both old and well established, without regard or apology for the shortcomings of either. Something Of Value Is A Novel Based On Events That Took Place In Kenya Colony During The Violent Mau Mau Insurrection Of The S, An Uprising That Was Confined Almost Exclusively To Members Of The Kikuyu Tribe It Is A Powerful, Gripping, And Sometimes Shocking Novel That Presents An Enlightening Glimpse Into The Lives Of All Sections Of The Population In Colonial Kenya Robert Ruark, a journalist and writer of some success came to Kenya in 1949 to go on hunting safari While there he became a close friend of the famed white hunter Harry Selby who owned a 40,000 acre cattle ranch in the White Highlands near Mt Kenya During the next six years he went back several times and was a firsthand witness to the beginning of the Mau Mau rebellion and State of Emergency which began in 1952 up until the eventual suppression of the rebellion in 1956 The violence of the rebellion and the impact it had on the small white Kenyan settler community was given wide newspaper coverage in Europe and North America but Ruark thought the coverage was overly biased in favour of the white settlers point of view So Ruark decided to write a novel about it Something of Value was published in 1955 and became an instant success Two years later a film based on the book was launched starring Rock Hudson, Dana Winter and Sidney Poitier.Ruark wanted his novel to give a balanced account of the causes and effects of the violence that took place He did this through the eyes of two protagonists Peter McKenzie, the son of a wealthy and widowed white cattle rancher and Kimani, the eldest son of the Kikuyu foreman of his father s ranch The two leading characters begin as inseperable friends and playmates long before the outbreak of hostilities but as the two age and the tensions between the white settler community and resident Kikuyus gradually increase each becomes radicalized Peter as a reluctant defender of white settler values and racial prejudices and Kimani, after a cutting insult to his pride, as a committed leader of the Mau Mau rebels.Both protagonists are damaged by the conflict Although Peter McKenzie is the victor, it is a Phyrric victory He has lost everything he loves his father, his sister and his wife Striking about the book is its brutal realism, based on Ruark s surprisingly profound understanding of Kikuyu and white settler values and prejudices, and personal fascination with the art of big game hunting The theme echoed throughout the book is that in the natural world death builds life But in this story, this law of Nature becomes the law of Man as well Also interesting is his extensive use of Kikuyu and Swahili words to capture the emotion and atmosphere and the detailed and bloody description of the violence that occurred It s a very readable and realistic story, and the horrible lessons it teaches about the systematic use of killings to achieve certain political ends could well apply to the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or the child soldiers in Sierra Leone and Central Africa. Ruark s Something of Value appeared in 1955, just at the end of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya I read it as a young boy and found it both exhilarating in its depiction of late colonial Kenya and horrifying in its account of the Mau Mau and their atrocities These days, of course, the Mau Mau are regarded as nationalist freedom fighters though of course the vast majority of their victims were non Kikuyu black Africans and it s the British and their internment camps rather than the Mau Mau with their machetes who are regarded as the prepetrators of atrocities Ruark took his account of the Mau Mau largely from white settlers in Kenya his hosts while he was there hunting back in the days of safaris and White Hunters and it s very much an account of the Mau Mau from the perspective of the beleaguered settler farms in the Kenya Highlands The politics of land acquisition and land reform don t figure here Let s be clear about that.But as an adventure story, as an account of a lost place and way of life, it is excellent Ruark isn t unsympathetic to the Africans, though he blames the revolt on deracinated Africans lost between cultures and made violent by their alienation Accept that this was written from a given, colonial viewpoint almost sixty years ago and read it for the tale itself. This is a beautifully written, wonderful book, made even better by the fact that it actually has a real ending and is not the start of a whole series Ruark paints beautiful scenes of African safaris and horrifying scenes of massacres carried out by both the Mau Mau and those opposing them A must read for anyone who enjoys hunting or animals There are so many great details within the book and small moments of vivid description and warmth that even in the midst of very dark parts of the book, I never felt overwhelmingly sad There was an undertone of life will overcome that came from the toughness of the characters, who are very dynamic and grow up during the book Though it is fiction, it is based on true events, and I think gives a fascinating and relevant example of how an uprising can happen and spread. This is one of the seminal novels of my adolescence Robert Ruark captured a culture in change and brought it to life I ve been thinking about it lately, because the current terror campaign being waged by ISIS is similar in so many ways, breaking all social norms to create dislocation, fear, and disruption In retrospect, remember that Mau Mau leader Jomo Kenyatta became a respected African leader in later years Probably won t happen today.. This book was phenomenal Although a work of fiction, it has been said that this book is very true to the time of the Mau Mau uprising in Africa in the middle of the 20th century Impeccably researched and beautifully written Not a book for the faint of heart and not something that will make you feel happy but, it will make you feel and stay with you for a very long time. I was recomended this book by somebody and thought it was going to be a politically incorrect honest account of the communist funded Mau Mau revolution in Kenya What it actually is, is a historical fiction account of it I was truly blown away by this book Even though it doesn t always portray the whites in a very good light idiots would say this book is racist because it shows the utter brutality and ignorant superstions of the blacks These days you are only allowed to show the bad side of whites As great as this book is I doubt that it could get published now Personally I believe it just shows in an honest way how both the whites and blacks thought and like I said the whites aren t always portrayed in the best light either It was amazing how tough and self sufficent the English settlers had to be With all due respect to them, the American settlers in the old west had nothing on these people Their big weakness was they were greedy and had to have black servants and workers on their farms I actually thinks its possible the British upper class who felt threatened by the self made wealth, power and strength of the settlers, may have even covertly had a hand in supporting the Mau Maus Another interesting fact is Barack Obamas Father worked for the genocidal Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya after he returned to Kenya This is something blacks all over the world who idolize Obama and the Mau Maus need to be aware of than anyone because the Mau Maus of course killed many whites but they were responsible for tens if not hundreds of thousands of dead Africans. A surprising account of the Mau Mau Rebellion in British Kenya in the early 1950 s Why is it surprising Mainly because it s brutal in it s accounting of atrocities committed by both the Blacks and Whites.I didn t expect that from a mainstream novel published in the mid 1950 s The book doesn t pull any punches and it doesn t let either side off The book makes it clear both sides are to blame.However, as another reviewer has pointed out, Ruark does write mostly from the white farmer s point of view since he knew the farmers and he couldn t help but write from their perspective Also this book was written in the 1950 s when the Cold War was at it s height and there is the inevitable appearance of the Soviets, albeit only in one chapter The Mau Mau Rebellion is shown to be the tool of those who would ensure that Communism takes over Africa So, despite Ruark s effort at being balanced, the fact that he personally knew many white settlers in Kenya and was anti communist and very few Americans weren t at this time in American history ensures that the story comes down on the side of the settlers This novel is brutal and stark in it s depiction of the violence that swept Kenya during the Mau Mau Rebellion The dramatic story aspects are typical of the 1950 s Melodrama,unfaithful spouses, heavy drinking and other assorted cliches that reminded me of an Irwin Shaw novel In addition Ruark tends to get carried away with the Stream of Consciousness as a narrative tool at times Used once in awhile it s effective, but he goes back to it once to often and it gets tiresome.There were times I found myself having to trudge through parts of the book However, all in all, it s an interesting read It even serves as a contemporary source on the Mau Mau, as opposed to a historical text that has been written in the past few years Perhaps not as accurate, but gives one insight into the minds of those who were actually living through the rebellion.
Horn of the Hunter, in which he detailed his hunt In 1953, Ruark began writing a column for Field Stream magazine entitled The Old Man and the Boy Considered largely autobiographical although technically fiction , this heartwarming series ran until late 1961 Ruark s first bestselling novel was published in 1955 It was entitled
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- Something of Value
- Robert Ruark
- 13 February 2017 Robert Ruark