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  • Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass

  • Written by: Isak Dinesen
  • Narrated by: Susan Lyons
  • Length: 16 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Out of Africa:

In this audiobook, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives; of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom; of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her; of primitive festivals; of big game that were her near neighbors - lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes; and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.

Shadows on the Grass:

Isak Dineson takes up the absorbing story of her life in Kenya begun in the unforgettable Out of Africa, which she published under the name of Karen Blixon. With warmth and humanity, these four stories illuminate her love for the African people, their dignity and traditions, and the beauty and wildness of the landscape. The first three were written in the 1950s and the last, "Echoes from the Hills", was written especially for this volume in the summer of 1960, when the author was in her 70s. In all they provide a moving final chapter to her African reminiscences.

©2015 Random House Audio; 2011 Isak Dinesen

What listeners say about Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jay Quintana
  • 2016-03-26

Sketches of Africa

This is beautifully written. We learn about the land, the people, the animals, and the farm. But very little of Blixen/Dinesen. I don't remember if she relates a single experience with her husband. His presence in the book is that slight. As for the other men in her life, they come across here as nothing more than platonic friends. If you want to know what Africa -- well, the part of Africa where Blixen/Dinesen resided -- was like in the early part of the 20th century, this is a must listen. If you're looking for an absorbing narrative -- the print version of the movie -- this will almost certainly disappoint.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Deborah Freitag
  • 2017-08-08

Disappointing

Any additional comments?

I downloaded this book to listen on the way to/from the office about 1 hrs. drive. It nearly put me to sleep. I was trying very hard to escape into the story but it was so dry. I didn't complete it. I just couldn't get through the long drawn out chapters. I LOVED the screen adaptation and should have just downloaded that one. Live and Learn.

8 people found this helpful

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  • barbara
  • 2019-02-23

Insanely unwoke and colonialist but beautiful

This is such a period piece, written by a titled and entitled European who was nonetheless pretty enlightened for her time and class. The author clearly cares about the people who work on her coffee plantation, and takes pains to adjudicate disputes fairly and equitably. She does her best, within the context of the insane colonialist attitudes in which she and the British colonialist government are steeped, to care for her workers and their families. Yet her continual references to "my houseboys" and "my squatters," and the ways in which she attempts to sum up the attitudes and behaviors of entire tribes based on the few she knows, and the horrifying observations about the mental capacities of certain tribes can't help but be severely cringe-worthy. Her description of and buy-in to some of the repressive laws of British colonial Kenya banning certain Kikuyu dances and making it illegal for the Masai to possess spears, for example, bring to mind the worst and most limited white fear-mongering pith-helmeted petty bureaucrats set on trying to control their subjects. It's painful to consider the ways in which colonial governments of that era messed up tribal boundaries and tribal relations, which had worked fine for millennia prior to the arrival of the rapacious white man.

Dineson is at her best when describing wildlife and nature. She has a great eye for the beauty and majesty of the land and its flora and fauna. She is an impressive European female of her era, to be running a farm on her own, killing lions, and working, for a time, running goods for the British government in WWI. Still, this reader, admittedly an animal lover, was nauseated by her wanton killing of wildlife (such as the time she shot an iguana "because I might be able to use its beautiful skin for something" only to discover that its skin turned grey the moment it died). I know those were different times, but the big game hunter mentality is utterly disgusting to me, and there's a lot of that sort of thing in this book.

There's only one mention of her husband, who lived in Europe, and much gushing about Dennis Finch Hatton and others. But the book is really a collection of vignettes about the farm, its workers, and nature.

I'm glad I listened, but at times it was very painful and I almost gave it up. The narrator has a rather piercing upper-class-sounding English inflection, which didn't help. Still, the beauty of the narrative and the fascination for this out-dated way of life are compelling enough to make me glad I stuck with it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • BillieJ
  • 2018-10-25

A life well lived.

Years ago when I first read her words they awoke in me a desire to remember her and those wonderful people each of whom were her family while she drank in Africa. It has given me much to strive for in my own life and to take in all those I’m blessed to know. This Audible production was a joy as it accompanied me through days of routines, driving and quiet rain. I’m most grateful to have been touched so thoroughly.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Lindsay Lovinger Watkins
  • 2016-04-22

It had my heart from page one!

I could only hope my own life could be rich. I highly recommend filling your life with these stories!

6 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth A. Kirsh
  • 2015-12-03

Sooo boring

What would have made Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass better?

A plot. I was waiting for a story line and never got one. It was snapshots from a white snob who observed the Africans as fine animals.

What was most disappointing about Isak Dinesen’s story?

The lack of a plot made the narrator's observations painfully repetitive and frustrating. I was waiting for her small mindedness, a very realistic portrayal of the colonists' views, to be framework for a storyline. A storyline never came....v

Would you listen to another book narrated by Susan Lyons?

Maybe. I could not tell if Susan Lyons was a boring reader or if she was just doing her job by droning on about tall grass, baobabs, and very advanced humanoid animals (the Africans)

What character would you cut from Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass?

Baroness Karen

Any additional comments?

I am a very well read and educated person. This might be one of the few instances where the movie is better than the book! (To be fully transparent, I only read 2/3 before I quit.)

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Shan Zhang
  • 2017-06-22

enjoyed every bit of this book.

What did you love best about Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass?

described the moon like a silver arch hung on the blue sky.

What other book might you compare Out of Africa & Shadows on the Grass to and why?

green hills of Africa by Hemingway.

What about Susan Lyons’s performance did you like?

peaceful.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Denis was buried in her farm.

Any additional comments?

the book brought my dear memories of Tanzania .

5 people found this helpful

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  • Frank S. Czerwiec
  • 2020-02-26

Enthralled by the reality of a well lived life from another time and place

Having listened to this wonderful narration shortly after revisiting the movie for the fifth or sixth time, I’m struck by the vividness of Isak (Karen’s) remembrances. Others have commented on the present day political incorrectness of the mistress-servant relationships, and trophy-hunting safaris of the early 20th century, but the fact that she felt it necessary to publish under a male pseudonym suggests this is simply the reality of the time which she too suffered.
The book is marvelous, and while not temporally constrained can over the course of a dedicated “reading” weave together, with minimal repetition, a bright and colorful tapestry of colonial Kenya. The highlights of which are the stories of the native Africans told with respect and an apparently sincere wish for understanding of traditions and a very ancient philosophy of life with nature.
It is of vital importance that the reader (listener) stay with the story to the end. In the final chapters of “Shadows ...” you appreciate the love felt by and between Karen and her compatriots. The joy she felt in their successes and sorrow in their passing. This picks up where the movie left off, and is the truest example of her love and respect.
Finally, the narrator gives an amazing performance. Whether the accent is real, it matters not, as it transports you to the time and place as did Meryl’s accent in the movie. As for the movie, I’m sure the artistic license taken improved the romance and pathos which the book remains silent on, but that is a private matter. I prefer to believe there is truth in both accounts and hope one day to visit the now suburban setting of “Karen” in a real life pilgrimage.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 2018-04-21

Narrator Bugs Me

Barely started and I can tell that the next 16 hours are gonna be irritating..I miss Merlye’s voice

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jenifer Cook
  • 2020-07-21

Lovely book for its time

A gently written and poignant tale from an earlier time, painting a picture of a beautiful place being spoiled by ignorant colonialism. Even though the author was a colonizer herself, her love for the place and the people where she farmed in Kenya shines through some of her outdated ideas. The use of the term "squatter" for the original inhabitants of her farm is particularly grating, even though it was common parlance at the time. Like George Catlin's portraits and descriptions of Native American society, this book leaves me once again wondering how different this world would look if Europeans had never left Europe. I liked the reader's delivery very much. For me she seemed to capture the spirit of the author, admiring, insightful, wistful, but not sad or depressing.

2 people found this helpful