The Literary Gems

Benefits of being in a Book Club

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I joined a book club early last year. It started with a conversation of facebook,  a watsapp group then the first book review at Java. It’s an awesome book club with unique members who I may never have met if it weren’t for the book club. The book club went beyond the shared  interest in books and soon, friendships were formed. These are women and men(there are 3 in the group) that I can talk to about (almost) anything. We have been there for each other through the laughter and the tears and of course through some awesome books. Honestly, they are the coolest people that I know. Our book club is called, The Literary Gems.

 
So why should you join a book club:

“Book clubs are totally dope – like English class if you were allowed to read only books that you actually like and snack and sip while discussing them.”
Sam Maggs, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks

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1. The Friendships: As I have already mentioned, I got to meet new people and form beautiful friendships through the book club.

 
2. More Reading: Being in a book club has definitely helped me read more especially in preparation for book reviews. I also have to be more conscious of the books that I read. Each time I read a book, I have to think about the plot and the characters. Sometimes I smile as I read because I already know what certain members of the group will say about certain characters 🙂

 

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3. The Discussions: As a reader, Many are the times that you come across a great book that you just want to talk about. The good thing about being in a book club is that you all have a shared interest in books and so can discuss books all day long. It’s always interesting to find a book that everyone is excited about.  I love talking about books and so I am grateful that I found people who enjoy the same thing.

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“None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we’d read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speaker was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another.”
Mary Ann Shaffer

4. Interesting books: Well I think that a book club can help you find out very remarkable books that you probably wouldn’t have found on your own. Some of the interesting books that my club has read include;

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Hosseini
  •  Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 

 

 

5. Challenging Books: I do not read science fiction, slow or complex books. I love reading books that have simple and fast story-lines. However, the beauty of being in a book club is that you get challenged to read books out of your comfort zone. Some of the challenging books that we have read include:

 

  • Adultery by Paulo Coelho– I did not like the protagonist. I didn’t understand her, I thought she was irrational and would have quit reading the book if it weren’t recommended by the book club. Well, I’m glad I was pushed to read it because that is one book less from my unfinished books pile
  • Moon Tiger By Penelope Lively– This is my only ‘ Digehota’ book. I didn’t even try. Something about the English and the complexity of it and plus I was doing my exams but maybe someday I will get to it.
  • 11/23/63 by Stephen King– This book has aspects of Time Travel so it’s not something that I would have picked on my own but I am glad that the book club picked it. I also learned an interesting phrase, the past is obsolete!

 

6. Discovering new places: Okay, I must admit, I always get excited about the meeting places. They are always new places for me. We met at some Java that I have never been to. Another discussion was held at a quaint restaurant called Reata. This month we are meeting at Habesha. It’s been an adventure not just about reading and discussing books but also discovering delightful new places.

“What’s the point of having a book club if you don’t get to eat brownies and drink wine?”
Jami Attenberg, The Middlesteins

Cheers to the Literary Gems for the wonderful books, discussions and the friendships.

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The Mt. Kenya Royal Cottages

Traveling

Islands

The farthest from home that I have been is Zanzibar. I have also been to the lovely Lamu Island and of course Mombasa. I love islands  and so would like to visit more of them. This year, I plan to make my first trip to Malindi. I also dream of visiting Rusinga Islands someday or at least Kisumu where I have never been to.

According to Google images, this is what Rusinga Island looks like.

There are many benefits of traveling; I think my favorite one is that you get to learn other people’s culture. For instance; I learned just how gentle and friendly Tanzanians are after visiting Dar Es Saalam and Zanzibar. Its at Zanzibar that I saw the most beautiful sunsets.One evening, seated at Forodhani gardens, my brother and I sat in awe of how beautiful the island was and even wondered if that is what paradise looked like. In Lamu,  I learned about people whose lives are not dictated by time, an island where there are no official opening and closing hours for businesses and sometimes when it’s so hot, businesses close in the middle of the day and people go off to sleep. It’s a Lamu that I had the most adventure; I had a drink on a floating bar/restaurant in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I also took a ride in a dhow that kept being thrown around in the ocean waves.

2013-07-01 18.13.54Beautiful sunset at Zanzibar

The Mount Kenya Royal Cottages

One place that I have had the privilege of touring extensively is my hometown, Nanyuki. I have been to tens of places but still keep discovering new ones. That is the thing about Nanyuki, there are so many places to visit and each place offers a different experience.  The Mt. Kenya Royal Cottages is my latest discovery.

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I saw the sign post for the Mr. Kenya Royal Cottages along the Narumoro- Nanyuki stretch sometime back.  The resort is located on a ka-hilly area and it’s not visible from the road. One day, my family and I decided to make the drive up the ka-small hill and check the place out. We found a wonderful little restaurant with very friendly staff. Interestingly, the prices for foods and drinks are far from being pricey. We had coffee/ tea pots and paid about 200shs only. The place was quite scenic and so we enjoyed a nice quite afternoon just catching up with each other and with nature.

 


On our way out, we talked to one of the staff members and he agreed to give us a tour around the resort and especially the cottages. Here are some pictures of the quaint cottages at the Mount Kenya Royal Cottages.

 

Check out this link for more details about the Mt. Kenya Royal Cottages;http://www.africanspicesafaris.com/mount_kenya_royal_cottages_nanyuki.html

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is the kind of book that stays with you long after you turn the last page. It is one of the best books that I have ever read. This book reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, another book that I enjoyed immensely.

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The setting of the book is Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, an era that was marked with racial segregation. The story is told from the perspective of three women. Aibleen and Minny are colored house helps working for white families in the town. These women are as different as any two people can be. Aibleen has a gentle and regal personality, she is also proud of having raised seventeen white children. She is currently working for Miss Leefold and taking care of her daughter, Mae Mobley. However, something changed in Aibleen after her only son dies.

“That’s the way prayer do. It’s like electricity, it keeps things going.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Minny on the other hand is hotheaded and sassy hence can’t seem to keep any job. She is revered as being an excellent cook but her mouth always seems to get her into trouble. Minny struggles to find a job until Aibleen gets her job working as a maid for someone new in town, someone who doesn’t know her reputation.
Skeeter is a white woman who dreams of being a writer. She is the only one from her race who seems to sympathize with the plight of the colored helps in the town. Skeeter was raised by a black maid, Constantine, who mysteriously disappeared. All efforts to find out what happened to Constantine seem fruitless as nobody seems willing to talk to her about it. The three remarkable women embark on a dangerous clandestine project that could change things in Jackson. However, the project also puts them in grave danger in a town marred by racial tensions.

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stocket has an easy flow and the shift between the three perspectives is well paced hence not confusing. The dialect used the book is in line with the characters and the setting and it didn’t throw me off at all. Good Law, I be honest and just admit that Diana done downright loved it!

 

“Mississippi is like my mother. I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

This book has both sad and happy moments that make the characters easy to relate with. Although, a work of fiction, The Help is a historical but timeless masterpiece that will make readers take another look at the way they treat their helps. This book also takes readers back to the tumultuous time in history that shaped the world we live in today.

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

I loved this book right from the start. It’s a captivating thriller, small book but a brilliant page-turner.
Behind Closed Doors by B. A Paris is about Grace and Jack Angel. These two seem like the perfect couple right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Jack is a successful lawyer with movie star looks and Grace is his elegant, adoring wife. The story begins with a dinner at the couple’s house. The two seem like the perfect hosts who are obviously in love. However, throughout the evening, there were small hints that imply that not all was okay between the two. I kept trying to guess what it was. The suspense was so palatable that I tried to read faster just to figure out what was wrong. At the dinner, one of the guests, Esther, also starts suspecting that there was something wrong with the two.
Grace is the narrator. It is through her that readers soon start to figure out that something is terribly wrong. The narrative goes between two timelines; the past and the present and this helps readers to connect the dots. What started out as the prefect relationship seems to have taken a terrible twists and it just keeps getting worse by the minute.
At some point, I had to put the book aside and try to think about what I would have done in the same situation. Jack is so manipulative that everyone else assumes that the couple is perfect. He is so good at his lies that Grace has an impossible task trying to convince anyone about the truth.
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This story is very fast paced that it reminded me of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It also reminded me of the movie American Psychopath.

 

Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris is the kind of story that will make you look around and think twice about the people around you. You will look at the smiling faces and truly wonder about what happens behind the closed doors and if it matches what is portrayed outside.
I absolutely loved this book.index
My favorite quotes: This books had some amazing quotes.

 

“‘Fear,’ he whispered. ‘There is nothing quite like it. I love how it looks, I love how it feels, I love how it smells. And I especially love the sound of it.’ I felt his tongue on my cheek. ‘I even love the taste of it.’”

This was simply creepy.

She looks steadily back at me. ‘What colour was Millie’s room, Grace?’
I can barely get the word out. ‘Red,’ I tell her, my voice breaking. ‘Millie’s room was red.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ she says softly.

About the book
The 2016 debut bloggers can’t stop raving about. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Ice TwinsEveryone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.

He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do. Though, you’d like to get to know Grace better.But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

An Encounter with the Veiled Woman

Short Story:February, 2016

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There was something about her eyes. I know that sounds like a cliché but honestly, her eyes! If you saw them then maybe you would understand what I mean. They were big, beautiful, soulful…I don’t know how else to describe them but believe me when I say, she had beautiful eyes. The sort of eyes that make men do dumb things and mumble like idiots.
I remember when I first saw her. I was a complete schmuck and was more interested in the veil that covered her face on that hot January afternoon. It was really hot, you know how Nairobi can get in January but the woman was in a veil and the rest of her was covered in some heavy garb, a long blackish dress that went up to her ankles. Everyone else looked like they were drowning in puddles of sweat and yet the veiled woman seemed unaffected by the heat. The veil was thin and fell over her eyes and again I found myself foolishly wondering whether she could see me from behind it. Would she react if I made faces at her?

 
If the veil and the long black dress were not enough, her hand and feet were covered too. I openly stared, mystified and intrigued by the woman walking towards me in the narrow hallway. I looked around to see if the other students were staring at her but they seemed oblivious . I was the only madman in that market.

 
I was lost in thought and couldn’t take my eyes off her.  Suddenly, she was near enough that I could touch her and that is when she looked up and our eyes met. Through the veil; I saw the most beautiful eyes in the world. It was just for a second before she quickly looked down again. There was something hauntingly beautiful about those eyes. They looked enchanting; mysterious… again I lack words to describe them. I wanted to see them again. I also wanted to talk to the veiled woman and find out things about her. I wanted answers to the silly questions in my mind like,… well was she hot in the garb and veil? I was definitely intrigued.eyes 1
She quickly went up the stairs at the end of the hallway and disappeared from my view. After my class, I walked around the college looking for her. I know I sound like a mad man but how can I explain it. I was enchanted, bedazzled, if that is madness then so be it. Most students spent time in the recreation room but she wasn’t there. I looked around the restaurants but couldn’t find her. How hard is it to find a woman in a veil in a Nairobi college? Dejectedly, I went from class to class, looking, searching just hoping to see her again. I didn’t want to ask around for her, lest my madness became evident to the other students.
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Finally, I found her. She was sitting in one of the lecture rooms with an open book on her desk. However, she was looking outside the window rather than the book in front of her. Once again, I was engulfed with the feeling of wanting to know her. I wondered what she was looking at. What was she thinking about and did she really see clearly watching the world from behind the veil?
I wondered what it would be like to go on a date with her. I thought of the women that I had dated in the past. The now seemed so bland in comparison to her. What would she wear to a date? Does she have special veils for different occasions? Perhaps she wears red veils to valentine dates and  blue ones to the movies. Wait, would she keep the veil on when watching a movie? Why does she even wear it in the first place? What does she look like underneath the garb? Is she slim, curvy? I was curious about her and I envied the people who had answers to my questions. Those who had seen her face, the shape of her body, her slender fingers, I envied them all.hands

 

 

 

 
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I wanted to know her but I was afraid that if i did, then the mystery would be lost. It would break my heart to find out that she was just an ordinary woman. I didn’t want to ruin it.

 

 

 

 

Haunted by the woman with the beautiful eyes behind the veil, I slowly walked away embracing my fantasies hence turning away from the reality in front of me.

Book Review: Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah

“Death in Somalia seldom bothers to announce its arrival. In fact, death calls with the arrogance of a guest confident on receiving a warm welcome at any time, no question asked.”
― Nuruddin Farah, Hiding in Plain Sight

The Good
Hiding in Plain Sight was the first book  I read by the author,  Nuruddin Farah. I have to admit, I was not disappointed by the prose or the easy flow of his narrative. The story is about a Somali family whose lives are thrown into turmoil after the death of their loved one. Aar is working with the UN in Somali and everything seems okay until he receives a threat just after finishing his final assignment. The threat is a single misspelled word, DETH! At first, Aar takes it lightly but eventually decides to go back to Nairobi where his two teenage children live. However, on his way to the airport, he takes a detour that  leads to his death at the hands of the Al Shabaab militant group. Bella is Aar’s half sister who lives in Rome where she works as a photographer. She is described as a free spirit with no responsibilities and who travels the world and has three lovers in different countries. However, after Aar’s death she decides to abandon her carefree life and fly to Nairobi to take care of her nephew and niece.

“In this sad world of ours sorrow comes to all and it often comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible except with time. You cannot now believe that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it will make you less miserable now. I have had enough experience to make this statement.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Her resolve although noble is met by obstacles when Aar’s absentee wife, Valerie,  suddenly turns up after ten years. The story mainly revolves around this conflict as the two women both try to assert their position in the children’s lives.

Nuruddin’s masterfully tackles sensitive issues in his book. For instance; Valerie and Padmini(two  main characters) are lesbian lovers in Africa, a continent which mostly shuns homosexuality. He also tells a story about grief and love in a way that will engage readers and leave them wondering how the family will survive this dark period of their lives. The issue of ethnicity also comes up although subtly. The ethnic profiling of Kenyan Somalis is mentioned and readers can get to understand how refugees feel about being in a foreign country. The ethnic profiling is both ways though as it comes through the characters who at times get into stereotypes about Kenyans and Somalis also.

The story is filled with  themes of family, ethnic stereotypes, religion, terrorism, death, grief and even homosexuality.

 

The Not so Good
The setting of the book is Nairobi, Kenya. I was born in Nairobi and I have been in this city for the past 31 years but I could not recognize the Nairobi that the Nuruddin describes in his story.

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The book has a number of inaccuracies about Kenya. One that really got to me is the part where the author mentions that Kenya lost a million and a half people in post-election violence. The period that he refers to is one of the darkest periods in Kenya but to say that a million people died during that period is untrue and seems like an unnecessary exaggeration that adds nothing to the story. The many reminders about how dangerous Nairobi is; also irked me and became a bit confusing. For instance; the protagonists dislikes Kenya and Nairobi so much because of how ‘dangerous’ the place is but then instead of whisking the kids away to somewhere safer like Mogadishu(as she suggests) or Europe, she settles for a life in this volatile country.

I wish Nuruddin Farah would have tried to be accurate about the country and city that he chose as the setting for his book. This kind of ‘bias’ reminds me of Aryan Hirsi who also wrote the book Infidel partly set in Nairobi that also had the same sort of inaccuracies, a sort of bias that left me baffled.

NairobiNairobi at Night(from google images)

In this book, the author also details every single thing no matter how mundane. For instance, he will list all ingredients of a dish, all items on a shopping list. Photography is also explained in such detail that it almost turned the story into a tutorial. The details slowed down the pace of the book and I kept waiting for something meaningful to happen.

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Despite my issue with Nuruddin Farah’s portrayal of Kenya and the slow pace, I recommend this book and give it three out of five stars. I also look forward to reading more books by this widely acclaimed author.

John Grisham

Author of the month, February 2016

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The Client was my first John Grisham novel. This was back in the 90s and although, I can’t  recall how I got the book but I do remember just how much I was captivated by the narrative. It made such an indelible impression on me and that is how I became John Grisham’s fan. In my opinion, Grisham is one of the world’s best fiction writers.

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.”
― John Grisham

If you like John Grisham like I do, well here are some interesting facts about him:
i. He is a trained lawyer and practiced law in Mississippi for a decade. His specialty was criminal defense and personal injury litigation. Writing was his hobby and this he did this on the side during court recess
ii. Growing up, Grisham wanted to be a professional baseball player
iii. His novel, A Time to Kill was inspired by a case about a 12 year old girl rape victim. After hearing the girl testifying in front of a jury, John Grisham started thinking about what would have happened if her father had killed the assailants.
iv. It took 3 years to write his first novel. A Time to Kill was rejected by 28 publishers before Wynwood Press decided to publish.
v. Grisham did not give up. Instead, he began writing his second novel, The Firm, which later became a motion picture. This book did so well and ended up on the New York’s Best Seller List for 47 weeks.
vi. His next books, The Pelican Brief and The Client were also best sellers and by this time, John Grisham had established himself as a master in legal thriller. His first book, A Time To Kill was republished and this time, it became a bestseller
vii. From 1988 when he wrote, A Time to Kill, John Grisham has written a novel each year. His novels have been translated into 42 languages and sold worldwide

Personal life: John Grisham has been married for 34 years and has two children

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“I don’t start a novel until I have lived with the story for awhile to the point of actually writing an outline and after a number of books I’ve learned that the more time I spend on the outline the easier the book is to write. And if I cheat on the outline I get in trouble with the book.”
― John Grisham

His Books include:
• A Time To Kill (1989)
• The Firm (1991)
• The Pelican Brief (1992)
• The Client (1993)
• The Chamber (1994
• The Rainmaker (1995
• The Runaway Jury (1996)
• The Partner (1997)
• The Street Lawyer (1998
• The Testament (1999)
• The Brethren (2000)
• A Painted House† (2001)
• Skipping Christmas† (2001)
• The Summons (2002)
• The King of Torts (2003)
• Bleachers† (2003)
• The Last Juror (2004)
• The Broker (2005)
• The Innocent Man (2006)
• Playing for Pizza† (2007)
• The Appeal (2008)
• The Associate (2009)
• Ford County (2009)
• The Confession (2010)
• The Litigators (2011
• Calico Joe† (2012)
• The Racketeer (2012)
• Sycamore Row (2013)
• Gray Mountain (2014)
• Rogue Lawyer (2015)

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Well, that’s John Grisham. One of my favorite authors and I think his story is quite inspiring too. I don’t know if I would have continued writing if my first book had been rejected by 28 publishers. Nevertheless, thanks to his fortitude, millions of people all over the world get to enjoy reading stories.
Below are reviews of some of the Grisham Books that I have read:
https://ahavenforbooklovers.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/theodore-boone-the-kid-lawyer-and-abduction-by-john-grisham-book-review/

https://ahavenforbooklovers.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/rogue-lawyer-by-john-grisham/

https://ahavenforbooklovers.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/the-sycamore-row/

When a Man Loves a Woman

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It is said that love makes people lose rationality and do crazy things. I do agree with that and can  share a few stories of my own moments of ‘loved induced’ temporary insanity. However, this is not about me. This is about men who have done extraordinary things for the women that they love.

1. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

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King Nebuchadnezzar was concerned when he noticed that his new wife, Queen Amytis was forlorn and homesick. He realized that Amytis was unhappy because she missed her home where there were highlands, valleys and forests unlike the desert where the King lived. King Nabuchadnezzar then decided to build the Hanging Garden of Babylon for her. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was so beautiful that it is listed under the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was filled with plants, trees and flowers so exotic like nothing anyone had seen before.
2. Taj Mahal

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The Taj Mahal is another magnificent building that was built for a woman. It is said that the Taj Mahal took over ten years to build.The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, emperor of Mughal empire, for his third and favorite wife, Mahal. Mahal had died at childbirth and the distraught King decided to build the Taj Mahal for her tomb. It is said that during the two year mourning period, Shah Jahan was consumed with so much grief that he prohibited music and entertainment in the region.

“Above all things I believe in love. Love is like oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!”
— Christian in Moulin Rouge!

3. The Kenyan Love Story…Or Not!
The Lord Egerton Castle

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Now imagine this, a man falls in love with an Austrian woman. He brings her to Kenya to his nice cottage. However, the woman unimpressed by his abode, laughs at him and declares that his home resembles a chicken coop or a dog kennel. This was in reference to the modest size of the home that only had…ahem… six bedrooms. That tiny place! Before, you judge her too harshly; you should know that this lady was ‘royalty’ hence a six bedroom house to her was just the same as living in a shoe. The lady was so disgusted by the tiny house that she fled back to her country leaving behind a very broken hearted man.

 
The man still determined to win her over decides to build her an impressive, grandiose castle with 52 rooms. The castle was so splendid that none other rivaled it even in England. The building materials were bought from Europe and the laborers were from Asia. At the end, he invites back the woman of his interest and once again, she rejects him in public. Even after building her such a magnificent and whimsical castle, she still remained unimpressed.

 

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This is the story of Lord Maurice Egerton Tatton and the Austrian Lady (her name was never given).The Castle that he built is known as the Lord Egerton Castle and is located about 12kms from Nakuru town. It was built in the 1930s but still stands to date albeit a bit rundown over time.
It is said that after the rejection, Lord Egerton decided to focus on farming on his 26,000 acres of land. He then furnished his castle as if a family lived there. Lord Egerton forbade entrance into the castle apart from the servants.

 

 

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In particular, women were banned from ever entering the castle or walking around its grounds. Because the Lady had compared his first home to a chicken coop or dog kennel, Lord Egerton hated dogs and chicken and they too were banned from the castle and its environs. So yeah, women, chicken and dogs… So serious was Lord Egerton that he put up notices on trees around his land and castle warning women that they will get shot if they ventured into the forbidden grounds.

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If you think banning women from his grounds was extreme, wait till you hear what he did when visiting his servants. Lord Egerton would issue a two weeks’ notice every time he wanted to visit the Servants’ quarters. This notice was issued so that the women (wives and daughters) could vacate the premises in good time ahead of his visit. Lord Egerton died a lonely man in 1958.

 
Today, the Lord Egerton Castle is a tourist attraction where men and …women roam around freely admiring the grand home. It is also a popular venue for weddings. I can just imagine how Lord Egerton is looking down at his castle, face contorted in rage as he watches women and girls (and perhaps even dogs and chicken) walk and run around his home.

“Basically, all women are nurturers and healers, and all men are mental patients to varying degrees.”
Nelson DeMille, The General’s Daughter


So when a man loves a woman, he builds her something grand. And women, when a man builds you a castle, don’t reject him lest he decides to punish all other women (dogs and chicken too) because of you.

IMG_20151020_154112Me, at the steps of the forbidden castle

 

A few more images from around the castle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- Book Review

“let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has so many good reviews. I am yet to come across any reader that didn’t like the book. My book club chose this book as our first read for 2016. I must admit, this was a good choice, one of the few books that I have read in just two days.

About the Book
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Girl on the Train reminded me of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s a fast paced thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The story is narrated by three women, Rachel, Ann and Megan. However, Rachel is the main narrator. One thing that I didn’t quite expect when I started reading the book is the insight that Rachel gives into the workings of the mind of an alcoholic. She has numerous memory gaps and sometimes her memories are all crumbled up and inaccurate. Her battle with the bottle is also quite heartrending.

 

Rachel is not only battling with alcoholism, she is also jobless and divorced although still in love with her ex husband, Tom, despite his betrayal. She is at a tough time in her life and so she escapes this by creating a fantasy about a glamorous couple that she sees everyday while on her daily commute. This couple lives near her ex husband, Tom and his new wife, Anna. The seemingly perfect couple who she nicknames Jason and Jess is actually Scott and Megan whose lives are far from faultless.

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train


The lives of these three women are tragically intertwined mainly because of the men in the lives. Although they seem to be very different, the three women all carry baggage. When Megan goes missing, Rachel is convinced that she can solve this mystery because of something that she saw from the train. In addition, she happened to have been near Megan’s home the night that she disappeared and thinks that she might be holding an important clue. However, as it turns out, Rachel can’t remember the events of that night because she was too drunk. She forcefully immerses herself into the investigation but then again, due to her alcoholism, nobody believes her and the police dismiss her immediately. In addition, every move that she makes seems to be the wrong one.

“I am not the girl I used to be. I am no longer desirable, I’m off-putting in some way. It’s not just that I’ve put on weight, or that my face is puffy from the drinking and the lack of sleep; it’s as if people can see the damage written all over me, can see it in my face, the way I hold myself, the way I move.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has very good twists as the secrets of the characters are revealed. Rachel’s attempts to put together the events of night that Megan disappeared add to the suspense as readers will keep guessing whether she will regain her memory or not. Of the three women, I found myself most drawn to Rachel due to her struggles. This is one thing that Paula Hawkins did very well; she ingeniously created a character that is likable, memorable and easy to connect with.

“She must be very secure in herself, I suppose, in them, for it not to bother her, to walk where another woman has walked before. She obviously doesn’t think of me as a threat. I think about Ted Hughes, moving Assia Wevill into the home he’d shared with Plath, of her wearing Sylvia’s clothes, brushing her hair with the same brush. I want to ring Anna up and remind her that Assia ended up with her head in the oven, just like Sylvia did.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

I loved the book and highly recommend it. It is well paced right from the first page and keeps readers engaged all the way to the very last page. It’s the kind of thriller that readers will keep talking about long after they turn the last page.

“It’s impossible to resist the kindness of strangers. Someone who looks at you, who doesn’t know you, who tells you it’s OK, whatever you did, whatever you’ve done: you suffered, you hurt, you deserve forgiveness.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train