I remember I read a short note on her death on the website of a Kenyan newspaper. Joan Root was murdered in her house at the shores of lake Naivasha in Kenya. She had lived there for many years, first with her husband Alan Root, after their divorce she lived on her own. She was fighting for the protection of the wonderful lake. The lake that is being theathened by all kinds of things and people. The expanding cultivation of roses (with a strong Dutch presence) around the lake brings its problems for the environment and an ever expanding use of water.

Because of this new industry thousand of people flock to Naivasha to look for work and a decent living. Slums are build on all sides in this mainly sleeping city, through which we often travelled. Poaching is on the increase, around the lake and in the lake. There was a union of landowners (mainly belonging to the tribe of white Kenyans) with land bordering the lake, but this union did not have the power and the unified effort to undertake action.

Joan Root took action and people took her life. A large part of this book dwells on this last part of her life.

The lovely Joan was born in Kenya and her father ran safari’s. She often travelled with him. In this way she learned to enjoy and appreciate nature and wildlife in Kenya. Her husband-to-be, Alan Root, came to Kenya from England when he was 10 years old. He became a famous wildlifefilmer and he could reach that status due to the immense efforts by Joan, who had a good knowledge of Kenya and who could organize a thing or two. Their marriage broke up when he got interested too much in other women. Alan still lives in Kenya.

The writer of this book is a journalist, he could make use of letters Joan wrote and that she received and all the notes she made during many years. I have the impression that the writer could have made more extensive and intensive use of this archive to give more depth to the person and activities of Joan.

A remarkable colouring of the story is the colour white. There is a very strong emphasis on the white community in Kenya. Therefore this book has become a book by a white writer on a white Kenyan woman in the context of her white Kenyan community and written for a white readership. The other Kenyans have disappeared into the background. To give an example: there is a picture in the book taken at the commemoration of Joan. At the back we see a white priest and you stare in the face of all the people who are present at Joan’s compound and who listen, they are all white.

Mark Seal – Wildflower – Random House 2009 

Published by


I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.