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Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton

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Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton Cover

ISBN13: 9781400060696
ISBN10: 1400060699
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Denys Finch Hatton was adored by women and idolized by men. A champion of Africa, legendary for his good looks, his charm, and his prowess as a soldier, lover, and hunter, Finch Hatton inspired Karen Blixen to write the unforgettable stories in Out of Africa. Now esteemed British biographer Sara Wheeler tells the truth about this extraordinarily charismatic adventurer.

Born to an old aristocratic family that had gambled away most of its fortune, Finch Hatton grew up in a world of effortless elegance and boundless power. Tall and graceful, with the soul of a poet and an athletes relaxed masculinity, he became a hero without trying at Eton and Oxford. In 1910, searching for novelty and danger, Finch Hatton arrived in British East Africa and fell in love-with a continent, with a landscape, with a way of life that was about to change forever.

Wheeler brilliantly conjures the mystical beauty of Kenya at a time when teeming herds of wild animals roamed unmolested across pristine savannah. No one was more deeply attuned to this beauty than Finch Hatton-and no one more bitterly mourned its passing when the outbreak of World War I engulfed the region in a protracted, bloody guerrilla conflict. Finch Hatton was serving as a captain in the Allied forces when he met Karen Blixen in Nairobi and embarked on one of the great love affairs of the twentieth century.

With delicacy and grace, Wheeler teases out truth from fiction in the liaison that Blixen herself immortalized in Out of Africa. Intellectual equals, bound by their love for the continent and their inimitable sense of style, Finch Hatton and Blixen were genuine pioneers in a land that was quickly being transformed by violence, greed, and bigotry.

Ever restless, Finch Hatton wandered into a career as a big-game hunter and became an expert bush pilot; his passion that led to his affair with the notoriously unconventional aviatrix Beryl Markham. But Markham was no more able to hold him than Blixen had been. Mesmerized all his life by the allure of freedom and danger, Finch Hatton was, writes Wheeler, “the open road made flesh.”

In painting a portrait of an irresistible man, Sara Wheeler has beautifully captured the heady glamour of the vanished paradise of colonial East Africa. In Too Close to the Sun she has crafted a book that is as ravishing as its subject.

Review:

"A superlative athlete with an enormous capacity for friendship and a chronically underachieving, charismatic loner with eternal wanderlust, Denys Finch Hatton (1887 — 1931) emerged as an iconic figure in the memoirs of two lovers, Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and Beryl Markham's West with the Night. In childhood, this earl's son — who would later reject the trappings of worldly success, saw his family fortune depleted, developed a passion for hunting from a nonconformist uncle as well as an appreciation for strong, artistic women like his mother — found Eton a 'youthful paradise,' says Wheeler, hat made it possible for him 'to believe in the African dream.' The nonconformist in him was drawn to the freedom the Dark Continent promised; after settling in East Africa, he fought on the WWI battlefield there and later became a hunter shepherding rich clients. Hatton, who died when the plane he was piloting crashed, left no diaries and his inner life remains unknowable, as Wheeler (Cherry) acknowledges, yet in this thoughtful, satisfying work, she masterfully captures his allure through the memories of others and through her deft interpretation of both his East African and British milieus in the tumultuous years surrounding WWI. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

About the Author

Like Denys Finch Hatton, Sara Wheeler was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford. Her books include Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica; Travels in a Thin Country; and Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, all available from the Modern Library. When not traveling, Wheeler lives with her family in London.

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rollyson2002, September 11, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
Denys Finch Hatton (1887-1931) may evoke for millions the visage of Robert Redford, who plays this quintessential British adventurer with an American accent in "Out of Africa." Finch Hatton, the original, had sherry-colored hair and "topsoil brown eyes," Sara Wheeler reports in "Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton" (Random House, 320 pages, $27.95). His aristocratic ancestors gambled their money away, and Denys was confronted with two choices: become a decadent nobleman in the manner of a Henry James protagonist in search of a rich American heiress, or restore the family fortunes by seeking new worlds to conquer in virgin territories such as Africa, where European powers were slicing apart the continent and setting up their own preserves like so many casinos on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Finch Hatton decided to pursue the family franchise; that is, he continued his forebears' gamble with existence, ultimately crashing an airplane in Kenya on his way to Nairobi. He believed that to live fully and well meant travel, or as Ms. Wheeler puts it, "movement between opposing environments."

That phrase occurs early on in "Too Close to the Sun," when Finch Hatton becomes aware of his family's need to sell off thousands of acres while hunting and otherwise frolicking on the remainder, collecting rents, and inheriting new properties at a time when Britannia ruled one-quarter of the world's land mass. The Eton-bound Finch Hatton peregrinated from Surrey to London to that most exotic of places for an Englishman: the peaty hills of Wales, another family property.

A captain in the Allied forces in East Africa during World War I, where Finch Hatton witnessed a grim and protracted guerrilla war ��" a portent of things to come ��" he became a big-game hunter, renowned bush pilot, and, of course, the devastating lover of Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) and Beryl Markham, the aviatrix author of the autobiography "West With the Night."

Finch Hatton has mainly served biographers as a foil to Blixen and Markham. I wondered how Ms. Wheeler would fare with a much-told story. Here is a sample of her Blixen, known to African English settlers as Tania: At 33, she had "deep-set dark eyes, a beak nose, and abundant chestnut hair, and her face was sometimes beautiful and at other times all wrong." Markham is best summed up in one word: "patherine."

Markham and Blixen knew each other, and though Beryl was a man stealer, Tania was tolerant. Exactly why, Ms. Wheeler does not say, but Tania may have recognized that Beryl and Denys were two of a kind, happiest when they were in motion ��" in this case often riding together on their beloved horses. Ms. Wheeler observes that "Tania was wafty and incorporeal, whereas there was something earthy and physical about Beryl." These opposites attracted: "Beryl was a man's woman (actually, she liked men and horses equally) with few close female friends, and she grasped the hand Tania held out to her." That last phrase is meant to be taken literally and metaphorically, and it demonstrates how deftly Ms. Wheeler negotiates the terrain between fact and figuration.

But what of Ms. Wheeler's main character? Denys Finch Hatton charmed so many women and men that Markham alleged he was bisexual. Ms. Wheeler finds no evidence of that, but she explains his appeal by quoting one of Tania's letters: "I have always felt that he has so much of the element of air in his makeup … and was a kind of Ariel." Then Ms. Wheeler gives Beryl her due, quoting a Markham passage about Finch Hatton's flying skills: "The competence which he applied so casually to everything was as evident in the air as it was on one of his safaris or in the recitations of Walt Whitman he performed during his more somber or perhaps during his lighter moments."

People just liked to watch Finch Hatton walk. He was evidently one of the most poised men to ever grace the earth, the spirit made flesh ��" or so this stylish biography would have us believe.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400060696
Subtitle:
The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton
Author:
Wheeler, Sara
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - British
Subject:
Adventurers & Explorers
Subject:
History
Subject:
British
Subject:
British - Africa, East
Subject:
Africa, East History.
Subject:
General Biography
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20070424
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16-PP PHOTO INSERT; 3 MAPS
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.4 x 6.5 x 1.1 in 1.25 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Africa » East Africa
History and Social Science » World History » Africa
Travel » Travel Writing » Exploration

Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton Used Hardcover
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$14.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Random House - English 9781400060696 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A superlative athlete with an enormous capacity for friendship and a chronically underachieving, charismatic loner with eternal wanderlust, Denys Finch Hatton (1887 — 1931) emerged as an iconic figure in the memoirs of two lovers, Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and Beryl Markham's West with the Night. In childhood, this earl's son — who would later reject the trappings of worldly success, saw his family fortune depleted, developed a passion for hunting from a nonconformist uncle as well as an appreciation for strong, artistic women like his mother — found Eton a 'youthful paradise,' says Wheeler, hat made it possible for him 'to believe in the African dream.' The nonconformist in him was drawn to the freedom the Dark Continent promised; after settling in East Africa, he fought on the WWI battlefield there and later became a hunter shepherding rich clients. Hatton, who died when the plane he was piloting crashed, left no diaries and his inner life remains unknowable, as Wheeler (Cherry) acknowledges, yet in this thoughtful, satisfying work, she masterfully captures his allure through the memories of others and through her deft interpretation of both his East African and British milieus in the tumultuous years surrounding WWI. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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