Denys Finch Hatton was adored by women and idolized by men. A champion of Africa, legendary for his good looks, his charm, and his prowess as a soldier, lover, and hunter, Finch Hatton inspired Karen Blixen to write the unforgettable stories in Out of Africa . Now esteemed British biographer Sara Wheeler tells the truth about this extraordinarily charismatic adventurer.
Born to an old aristocratic family that had gambled away most of its fortune, Finch Hatton grew up in a world of effortless elegance and boundless power. Tall and graceful, with the soul of a poet and an athlete’s relaxed masculinity, he became a hero without trying at Eton and Oxford. In 1910, searching for novelty and danger, Finch Hatton arrived in British East Africa and fell in love–with a continent, with a landscape, with a way of life that was about to change forever.
Wheeler brilliantly conjures the mystical beauty of Kenya at a time when teeming herds of wild animals roamed unmolested across pristine savannah. No one was more deeply attuned to this beauty than Finch Hatton–and no one more bitterly mourned its passing when the outbreak of World War I engulfed the region in a protracted, bloody guerrilla conflict. Finch Hatton was serving as a captain in the Allied forces when he met Karen Blixen in Nairobi and embarked on one of the great love affairs of the twentieth century.
With delicacy and grace, Wheeler teases out truth from fiction in the liaison that Blixen herself immortalized in Out of Africa . Intellectual equals, bound by their love for the continent and their inimitable sense of style, Finch Hatton and Blixen were genuine pioneers in a land that was quickly being transformed by violence, greed, and bigotry.
Ever restless, Finch Hatton wandered into a career as a big-game hunter and became an expert bush pilot; his passion that led to his affair with the notoriously unconventional aviatrix Beryl Markham. But Markham was no more able to hold him than Blixen had been. Mesmerized all his life by the allure of freedom and danger, Finch Hatton was, writes Wheeler, “the open road made flesh.”
In painting a portrait of an irresistible man, Sara Wheeler has beautifully captured the heady glamour of the vanished paradise of colonial East Africa. In Too Close to the Sun she has crafted a book that is as ravishing as its subject.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Too Close to the Sun|
|Release Date: 04-24-2007|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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Too Close to the Sun
OUT OF TRIM
I saw him first fingering a pistol in a Nairobi gun-shop, with the casual interest that men of action will show for such toys, and well I liked the look of his scholarly appearance, which had also about it the suggestion of an adventurous wanderer, of a man who had watched a hundred desert suns splash with gilt the white-walled cities of Somaliland. —llewelyn powys, Black Laughter, 1925 When he heard that denys finch hatton had been killed on the plains of Africa, Alan Parsons reflected that his friend had been “like one of his forefathers of Elizabethan days—a man of action and a man of poetry.” It was the first Sir Christopher Hatton who had raised the family to the sunlit uplands of the English aristocracy, and they languished there through the pleasant centuries while their nation prospered. Denys inherited the charm of his Elizabethan ancestor, but not his taste for the gilded baits of conventional success. A Northamptonshire man, ruffed and sharp-bearded, Sir Christopher had worked his way into court and dazzled Queen Elizabeth with his dancing. She showered him with money and honors until he was Lord Chancellor. At thirty-five, he was able to purchase Kirby Hall in East Northamptonshire, one of the great Elizabethan houses, a model of proportion replete with cupolas, pergolas, and ninety-two fireplaces. But Sir Christopher had many mansions, and for five years he was too busy to visit Kirby. By the time Denys was born three centuries later, the family was heading in the other direction (down), as his uncle George, the eleventh Earl of Winchilsea, had gambled away several fortunes. After disposing of most