by Joseph Kessel

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Guest Review by Florence Lefebvre

“She had the same right as any animal to experience the sacred spasm that makes the earth quiver with a wet trembling every spring.” (Belle de Jour)

Forget everything you know about Africa.

Let the songs of the Masai warriors carry your thought to the deepest parts of the savanna, after the lakes where the elephants come to drink, just there, behind a bush, where the biggest lion you’ve ever seen rests. Happy.

His best friend is near him.

Her name is Patricia, she’s a little girl. Her dad is the park ranger.

Follow Patricia, her father, a young morane – and let the music of the words make the animals dance …

I read this story when I was 11 and it’s still a book I can’t even think of picking up again – I don’t want to lose the magic. It’s a great read, a beautiful story, the language in French is poetic – people who like to travel, to get away from an every day life will enjoy reading this tale of a far away land, at a not so far away time … it’s pure magic.

There’s only one quote that I still remember 31 years later. “Et les bêtes dansaient.” (And the beasts/animals were dancing.) It’s the last line of the book, and I knew, deep down that the book would end with this line. That’s how I would have ended it.

It’s one of a certain kind of book written just after WWII that takes you far away – Like St Exupéry’s Vol de Nuit or Citadelle. It takes place during a time when travel wasn’t as easy as it is today, and travelling was an adventure in itself – these books use words to take us on unexpected journeys.

Extract from first page of book:

“Patricia Bullit is a child of two worlds. In her trim navy-blue dress, studying her lessons and moving in her parents’ world, she is an ordinary ten year old, with ordinary tastes and interests; in her faded dungarees, slipping silently and freely among the great beasts in unexplored, forbidden parts of a vast Kenya game preserve, she enters a world utterly foreign to any ordinary person. Her human friends are few – proud, fearless Kihoro, long ago crippled by a savage rhinocerous; Bull, Bullit, her warden father, once known throughout Africa as a great hunter; and the narrator, who is swiftly caught up in a tightening snare of conflicting loves. In the jungle Pat’s friends are without number, and her greatest love is for King, the mighty and magnificent lion she raised from a helpless cub. Slowly at first, and with gathering speed and violence, her two worlds overlap more and more dangerously, and deeply moving drama of love and growing up is played to its terrific climax. Internationally hailed as great and timeless literature, here is the Lion in a stunning illustrated version, with line cuts and color tip-ins by Harper Johnson bringing Kessel’s flawless prose to its fullest realization.”

 

Florence Lefevre lives surrounded by French Castles, is newly devoted to yoga and aspires, one day, to become a published writer.  She works full time and is married with one daughter.  Enjoys a glass of wine and cheese while the rest of the world is still working.

She can be reached at floominette@gmail.com.