LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS by Rosamond Halsey Carr

LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS

My Life in Rwanda

KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing memoir of a European woman plantation owner in Rwanda over the past half-century, written with grace and self-assurance by Carr, with help from her niece. Carr moved to the then Belgian Congo in 1949 in an attempt to salvage her marriage to an English explorer and big game hunter. That particular relationship failed to pan out, but her lifelong liaison with Africa was kindled. She and her husband had stumbled upon the gorgeous landscape that lay along the Rwanda-Congo border, at the time under a benign Belgian territorial mandate, but soon to be a hotbed of contentions: independence struggles, efforts to save the last habitat of the mountain gorilla, genocidal ethnic fighting. She lands first in the Congo, where she runs a pyrethrum (a natural insecticide) plantation, and then moves away from her husband to a similar if more spectacularly situated plantation in Rwanda. Carr is a keen observer, adept at both landscape description—and this is a landscape that barks for hyperbole, and Carr’s delineations are vivid but controlled—and summarizing historical moments (“the 1950s in Rwanda were the waning years of a great kingdom . . . florid and baroque”). She appreciates the various shades of gray that color her region’s circumstances: she provides a neat, crisp summation of Hutu-Tutsi enmity and its cruel consequences over their 400-year association, and she maps Belgian colonial desires in the Congo and Rwanda and Burundi. She exudes common sense and integrity in matters of politics and business (she is invariably on the brink), then softens the story by lacing it with personal relationships (including a rocky but intense one with Dian Fossey) and life at her compound, where bougainvillea twine with the climbing roses, crested cranes rule the sky, elephants are garden pests, and an active volcano lights the night horizon. A quiet and elegant beauty of a memoir, with a dignity that is at once antique and enviable. (First serial to Vogue)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-88780-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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