Return to Kenya

2008-10-02 08:05

Reunion in Barsaloi is a sequel to Corinne Hofmann's bestseller, White Masai, in which she relates her adventures of 14 years ago. As a young Swiss-German tourist travelling with her Italian boyfriend to Kenya, she met and fell in love with a Masai warrior. She subsequently married Lketinga, the warrior, and had his child. After spending four years in rural Barsaloi, she fled the country with her 18-month-old daughter. This book tells the story of Hofmann's return to Kenya to re-establish ties with her Kenyan family. She decides to leave her teenage daughter behind in Switzerland as she isn't sure she'd be allowed to take her back to Europe once her Kenyan ex-husband sees her.

This is an interesting account of a European's visit to a country that obviously had a huge impact on her life. Unfortunately Hofmann only refers fleetingly to the events obviously recounted in White Masai and I felt frustrated at never finding out exactly why and how she fled Kenya in such a state of distress. Surely a sequel should give a basic precis of the events that preceded it? Not everyone will be familiar with the original work.

Having said that, the book still makes interesting reading. Hofmann's obvious infatuation with the country when she was young has mellowed into a more mature appreciation of the good and bad aspects of the country, which was once so romantically foreign to her. It's intriguing to learn more about the tribes' traditions in rural Kenya even though female circumcision and the suppression of women is taken completely for granted. Hofmann's frustrations at these are expressed in vain and it seems like centuries will pass before women will be regarded as equals in this country. However, the traditional tribes are still better off than people in the cities where slums have developed and crime and disease have reached crisis proportions.

All in all, Hofmann's easy and engaging style makes for an enjoyable and entertaining read, although reading White Masai is essential for full appreciation of this novel.

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