book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Kuki Gallmann - I dreamed of Africa

Reviewed by Ro Bennett on show 26th Nov.
I dreamed of Africa is an autobiography by Kuki Gallmann, an Italian writer and poet. It was first published in1991.
Born in 1943 and raised near Venice, Kuki moved to Kenya in 1972 with her second husband, Paolo, Paolo’s two daughters, Valeria and Livia and Kuki’s son Emanuele from her first marriage. She has written several books about Africa and a film adaptation of the book I dreamed of Africa was made in 2000. The book has been translated into 21 languages.

The New York Times Book Review says:
''In a haunting memoir…Ms Gallmann captures perfectly the magic of Kenya, creating an almost overwhelming picture of beauty and drama, pain and joy, death and resurrection…this book from a gifted writer is filled with the author’s love for her family and for Africa. Despite the tragedies that occurred, it is uplifting'.

Marlene lent me the book and she said that she found it very moving. She liked the descriptions of Kenya, the animals and the Great Rift Valley.
I then lent the book to my neighbour, Dorothy, and she also found it moving. She thought it was sensitively written and said that Gallmann must be an extraordinary woman.
She is certainly an extremely resilient person! Kuki survived a couple of nasty car accidents. The first was in a car driven by Mario just before they married. In the second, Paolo’s wife Mariangela was killed and Kuki was seriously injured, suffering multiple fractures. Throughout her long recuperation and many operations, Paolo encouraged Kuki saying, ‘You must get better. You must walk again. Then I will show you Kenya.’ During this time they fell in love and when Kuki had fully recovered they moved to Kenya in 1972 with the three children.
In 1980 Paolo was killed in a car accident, while bringing home a crib for their unborn baby who turned out to be a little girl called Sveva. Three years later, Emanuele died aged 17, of a snake bite while trying to extract viper venom for antiserum.

Kuki managed to survive all this heartbreak and trauma and went on to found the Gallmann Memorial Foundation in honour of Paolo and Emanuele. She decided to dedicate her life to saving the environment and wildlife of Kenya. She is now a Kenyan citizen.
So, a remarkable woman! I looked her up online and she’s on Facebook and has 572 fans! There is also has a website for the Gallmann Memorial Foundation which is interesting to browse.
She has an impressive list of achievements and titles. Amongst other things:
She is Founder Member and Director of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, The Ecotourism Society of Kenya and the Laikipia Nature Conservancy Trust.
She’s a goodwill ambassador for the African Medical Research Foundation and a member of the Kenya Tourist Board Creative Committee. And has all sorts of awards you can read about.
However, she does have some detractors. There was a Lawsuit in 2001, when it was reported that Gallman was being sued by 915 Kenyan tribes people because of the alleged violence of her mass eviction of them from her land during a drought.

And there are some Anti – Reviews.
One said of her book: The ramblings of a pretentious egotist
Frankly I don’t think this woman looks beyond the end of her privileged nose.
You will learn very little about the real Africa or its people from this book.

Another said: While her commitment to wildlife conservation is laudable, the commitment to the well being of Kenyans is sadly missing.
None the less I still think she’s a gutsy lady!

Postscript: I was interested to see Saba and Dudu Douglas Hamilton were friends of Emanuele. Saba has grown into the beautiful girl who has presented some of the Big Cat Diary programmes.
by Ro Bennett

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