THE SONG OF THE RAINBIRD by Barbara Whitnell

THE SONG OF THE RAINBIRD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An antiseptic, de-flavorized saga (1904-1952) about English settlers in racially tense Kenya--focusing on the struggles of idealistic, career-minded Kate Carswell. In 1904 Kate joyfully sails to Africa, along with shipboard acquaintances Louise Hudson and Meg Lacey--only to find that the fiancÉ she's joining, Edward Matcham, is dead in a ""shooting accident."" So, helped by kind Meg and Hugh Lacey, Kate will operate a small girls' school for English children, with frequent visits from shy government official Andrew Honeywell. But Kate is becoming increasingly intrigued by her dead fiancÉ's partner Christy Brennan--suspicious at first, then attracted. After all, virtually no one but Christy approves of her radical notions about racial equality and African culture; and, when Christy brings her a small child born of a Kikuyu mother and white father, Kate decides to adopt her--leading to the deraise of the school, thanks partly to racist teacher Hope (who bags shy Andrew). Still, Kate soldiers on--moving in with the Laceys on their struggling farm, where she not only teaches a mini-school but also supervises adopted daughter Patsy and young orphan Julie. Meanwhile, Kate and Christy have professed their love--but he, alas, is married to an unloved spouse back in Ireland, who'll inconsiderately linger on until Kate is 39. And, in the later chapters, bright and pretty Patsy--raised by Kate to lead a newly-educated, crusading Kenyan generation of women--becomes the focus: she suffers discrimination, grief over her real father's identity, and anguish over romantic disappointment; she marries gentle, intelligent David Ngangi--whose humiliation by a horrid white woman (Hope, who else?) on a public street makes a deep impression on their son James. So, finally, the brainwashing and training of James for terrorism--by a Mau Mau uncle--provides the ultimate heroic tragedy. Lots going on--but a shallow skim of Kenyan/English bi-cultural clashes, with weighty issues reduced to the level of chatty domestic melodrama.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's