Books and Movies Set in Kenya

I decided to do this post following a conversation that I had with my book blogging friend, Annie (The Misstery). Annie is from Spain and I am from Kenya. We met in blogosphere and became friends on and offline though we have never met in person. One thing that we talk about a lot, well apart from TV shows and books, is our cultures. I enjoy getting to know more about Barcelona and life over there. In turn, I tell her about Kenya. Over time, she messages me each time she sees a book or a movie set in Kenya. Last weekend, she watched The Constant Gardner and told me about it. That is what inspired me to write this post. I thought it would be a fun way to help me discover movies and books set in my country and also help others get to know them.

Last week, I wrote a few facts about Kenya and Kenyan literature. If you missed my post, you can find it here. In this post, I will share books and movies set in Kenya. Unlike the previous posts, there are  by non-Kenyans.

Books that have already been made into movies

Out Africa 1


Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

I think this is one of the most well known movies set in Kenya. Karen was a Danish woman who moved to Kenya to start a new life. The movie and book detail her experiences in Kenya. Today, there are a number of places named after her and Karen is also the name of one of the most affluent suburbs in Nairobi. It’s still possible to visit her house in Karen and Denys Finch Hatton’s grave on the Ngong Hills.



I dreamed of Africa


I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Galmann


Italian Kuki Galmann falls in love with Kenya. However, her life is filled with tragic events after her move to Kenya. I haven’t read this book but I have watched the movie and I just recall how sad it was. Kuki had such a terrible time in Kenya despite having fallen in love with the country.





constant gardener 2.jpg


The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

This is a thriller about a widower trying to solve his wife’s murder. The story is set against the backdrop of espionage between the British Embassy and the Kenyan authorities. The Constant Gardener won several awards, including an Oscar for best actress.



The White Maasai by Corinne Hoffman

This is based on a true story. It tells the story of Corrine Hoffman(Swiss) who came to Kenya as a tourist but fell in love with a Samburu Moran and decided to stay in the country. She moved to a remote village in Samburu with the moran. I remember watching this movie a few years back. I think Corrinne was in love but above all, she was very brave. I don’t know if I couldn’t do half of the things that she did. The movie is based on a book so you can get both.


tsavo 2

Man-eaters of Tsavo by John Henry Patterson

This is one of the most frightening things that I have ever seen. What is even most scary is the fact that it is based on true events. About 130 people died in the early 1900’s during the construction of the Nairobi- Mombasa railway. They were all eaten by lions. This is both a movie and a book. Not one for the faint-hearted.

born wild 1


Born Wild – Tony Fitzjohn (2010) – Biography by George Adamson’s assistant, set in 1980s during their research into lion behavior in a national park ravaged by poaching at that time.




Dreams from my fatherDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barrack Obama

Barack’s journey comes full circle in Kenya, where he finally meets the African side of his family and confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life. Traveling through a country racked by brutal poverty and tribal conflict, but whose people are sustained by a spirit of endurance and hope, Barack discovers that he is inescapably bound to brothers and sisters living an ocean away—and that by embracing their common struggles he can finally reconcile his divided inheritance.

You can read my review here.


 Hiding in plain sightHiding in Plain Sight by Nurrudin Farah

When Bella learns of the murder of her beloved half brother by political extremists in Mogadiscio, she’s in Rome. The two had different fathers but shared a Somali mother, from whom Bella’s inherited her freewheeling ways. An internationally known fashion photographer, dazzling but aloof, she comes and goes as she pleases, juggling three lovers. But with her teenage niece and nephew effectively orphaned – their mother abandoned them years ago—she feels an unfamiliar surge of protective feeling. Putting her life on hold, she journeys to Nairobi, where the two are in boarding school, uncertain whether she can—or must—come to their rescue. When their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirror the deepening political instability in the region, Bella has to decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.

You can read my review here.


A City of Thorns

A City of Thorns by Ben Lawrence

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.
I haven’t yet read the following though they do sound interesting:

An African Love StoryLove, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Shedrick

But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.



Flames of ThikaThe Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood – Elspeth Huxley

In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya. As pioneering settlers, they built a house of grass, ate off a damask cloth spread over packing cases, and discovered—the hard way—the world of the African. With an extraordinary gift for detail and a keen sense of humor, Huxley recalls her childhood on the small farm at a time when Europeans waged their fortunes on a land that was as harsh as it was beautiful. For a young girl, it was a time of adventure and freedom, and Huxley paints an unforgettable portrait of growing up among the Masai and Kikuyu people, discovering both the beauty and the terrors of the jungle, and enduring the rugged realities of the pioneer life.


The Maasai Life.jpg

My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah by Robin Wiszowaty

Growing up in suburban Illinois, Robin Wiszowaty never pictured herself living with an impoverished Maasai family in rural Kenya. Yet in her early twenties Wiszowaty embarked on an incredible journey that would shake her from complacency, take her to unimaginable locales, and change her life forever. My Maasai Life follows Wiszowaty’s remarkable voyage as she explores some of the most remote areas of East Africa and has her eyes opened to the diverse issues facing the fascinating Maasai people.



Nowehere in Africa – A German Jewish refugee family moves to and adjusts to a farm life in 1930s Kenya.

The First Grader– The story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau veteran who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

Nairobi Half Life– A young, aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya dreams of becoming a success in the big city. In pursuit of this and to the chagrin of his brother and parents, he makes his way to Nairobi:the city of opportunity.

Sense 8– A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.

The Kitchen Toto– I watched this movie when I was a child. It is set in the colonial era in Kenya. I have been trying to get the movie again but it seems like it was only produced in VCR. DVDs are very hard to find. It is one of the most memorable movies that I have ever watched though.


Leopard at The Door by Jennifer McVeigh – This is one of my most anticipated reads this year. I received the ARC from NetGalley and will be reading it in July.

After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.

kenya this one

So, that is it. If you know any other movies or books set in Kenya then please let me know.




  1. ❤ Love this!!! I love when you tell me about your country, and thanks to this selection I will definitely learn more. I love Out of Africa but Ive never watched I dreamed of Africa, is it good? Im checking out the books now! Such a great idea for a post!

    1. You should watch I Dreamed of Africa when you get a chance.Its a beautiful movie.Set in colonial Kenya though based on real events.Let me know if you get to watch it.
      The idea was inspired by you so thank you 🙂

  2. The First Grader was a great film. The man deserved to be educated, but in the film, the teacher points out that he’s taking too much time from the teacher. HIs presence makes it harder for the children, but he wasn’t educated because things were made hard for him. The story presents interesting arguments.

    The Ghost and The Darkness was a 1996 film that is also based off of Tsavo Man-Eaters that I really enjoyed:

    1. I admired Maruge’s determination to study.Years later,he was a victim of post-election violence and ended up at a camp for the internally displaced but still went to school.So many obstacles and yeah,the complains about him being a distraction may have been valid.I know the media used to follow him at school quite often. Wonderful film though.I’ll check out Ghost and Darkness.

      1. I didn’t realize the media followed him to school! I can see how that would be a distraction. In the movie, it was simply because he was bigger, asked more questions, kept coming in the door when he was told he wasn’t allowed, etc.

        I know it’s not Kenya, but one movie coming out this year I really want to see is called A United Kingdom, starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo. Here’s how it’s described: “When the black chief-in-waiting of one of Botswana’s most powerful tribes married a white British clerk, they faced uproar and exile in an apartheid-era world.”

    2. I migrated to sweden and while taking swediah lessons i felt this effect of those who have different levels of education. The govt later realised that it would save them money by grouping people according to their education level…Win Win for all

  3. This is a great list Diana! Many of these are on my to read/to watch list, and I look forward to checking out some of the others.

    I would add the memoir West with the Night by Beryl Markham- it is incredibly well-written and features many of the real life people from Out of Africa.

    Also, I remember my parents watching The Man-Eaters of Tsavo when I was a child, and I think I’m still traumatized!

    1. Thank you so much Jessie. Definitely adding West in the Night to my TBR list. I also watched Man-Eaters of Tsavo when I was younger but can still remember how scary it was. I think it was even more terrifying knowing that it was based on real events.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. This is so interesting! Didn’t know you were from Kenya. I know next to nothing about your country, and that is intriguing me so much. Also, hi fellow international blogger – I am from Lithuania (a country you also probably don’t know much about, haha)
    The White Maasai sounds amazing! I can’t believe a foreigner would decide to change her life so much, that is absolutely impressive. I should definitely read that book.

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