THE WEATHER IN AFRICA by Martha Gellhorn


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Gellhorn had little nice to say about Africa, circa 1962, in Travels with Myself and Another (1979)--and these three stories set among English folk in independent Kenya use the Africans chiefly as background or as unpleasant intruders. Weakest of the three is ""In the Mountains,"" which finds Gellhorn in her slick magazine-fiction mode--a genre where good, homely girls end up with lanky, attractive scientists who share their interest in botany, while their bad, pretty sisters take to sex and drink. (The sisters here are daughters of hotel-keepers on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.) The longest story, ""In the Highlands,"" is about a loner who goes out to Kenya after years in a German prison camp during World War II and the loss of his parents and sister. He builds up a dairy farm, acquires a disastrous wife (whose tacky, lower-middle-class taste profoundly annoys Gellhorn), and eventually is rid of her to devote himself to his adopted daughter--a beautiful Afro-Asian. The details of life among the English farmers here are far more engaging than the almost Edwardian plot that strings them together. Only in the final--and shortest--story, ""By the Sea,"" does Gellhorn achieve emotional power by focusing on one woman at the end of her rope. Here the African details are incidental and feeling takes over--the intense sadness that Gellhorn conveyed in her 1930s Depression novels. Elsewhere she affects a dry English manner, without conveying the underlying textures crucial to the work of those dry English masters.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Dodd, Mead