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The White Rhino Hotel (Signet)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Bartle Bull

Bull ventures into historical fiction with his second book, although the subject matter is the same as his earlier nonfiction work, Safari (Viking, 1988). In addition to providing an interesting look at the nature of life in Kenya at the end of World … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Bartle Bull
Publisher: Signet
1 review about The White Rhino Hotel (Signet)

Perhaps I should have read this one first . . .

  • Apr 9, 2000
I came to this book after reading and immensely enjoying its sequel, A CAFE ON THE NILE. Since I like rip-roaring adventures in faraway places, and the sequel proved so enjoyable, I grabbed this one up as soon as I found it in a used bookstore. And it was enjoyable, creating a world for me which constantly drew me back each time I'd put the book down. Yet there was something lacking in this tale of new settlers and broken souls cast up on the shores of British East Africa (the future Kenya). Here were all the characters who play such a significant role in the subsequent book and we get to see how they found their way to become what we later encounter there. The English gypsy boy, Anton Rider, lost and adrift in England will find his moorings in the African bush -- a hunter and adventurer with a touch of the farmer in him. The dwarf from Goa, Olivio Fonseca Alavedo, a man who will gradually change from the cold-hearted schemer who cares for nothing but himself to the cold-hearted schemer who also, by the way, happens to care for a few friends. Gwenn Llywellen, wife of a broken World War I soldier, will endure the wilds of the new country and the sadness of loss while becoming a stronger person. Lord Penfold, hotel proprietor and down and out English gentleman, will sink further into ineffectualness but never, quite, inactivity. And the German ex-soldier, Ernst von Decken, will demonstrate why he can be relied upon despite his cold and ruthless ways. All of these are here in a tale of wandering and land-grabbing and lust in colonial Africa. And yes, there's lots of lust. In fact the sex is rather prominent in this tale, and frequently quite strange. Besides the usual sort, we are treated to Olivio's kinkiness and a brutal rape. And Mr. Bull has a thing for recurring motifs: The twin Somali courtesans here, the "Black Tulips", vs. the sexually assertive and promiscuous American twins in the sequel. Olivio bound and trapped in both books facing imminent destruction through immolation. The loss of a beloved African sidekick in both. I could go on. But suffice it to say that the sexuality has an oddly abstract quality to it (it does not kindle and smolder in the reader's mind as, I think, it should) while Mr. Bull seems to be fixated on a number of recurring motifs and situations. Yet, this said, I must add that while the book did not surprise as I'd hoped, the tale did not keep me guessing, it once again kept me coming back and wanting more of the wild world which Bull portrayed. For a big book, I thought the end rather rushed and almost anti-climactic. And somewhat predictable. But it was an experience to be reading it. (I put several others aside just to see it through.) Perhaps if I'd read this one before its sequel I wouldn't have been so disappointed. But, on balance, I liked the second one better.The King of Vinland's Saga

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