Echoes From a Distant Land
In the early part of the 20th century, an African boy’s life changes dramatically when white missionaries impose their disturbing ideas upon his Kikuyu tribe. Wangira soon learns that many of the old traditions and beliefs are under threat, but as a young warrior he saves the life of a wealthy American photographer and doors open to the white’s world and a life previously unimaginable.
Between the wars, Kenya is a land of boundless opportunity where the rich engage in hunting safaris, horse racing, racy parties and all the pleasures that money can buy. Dana Northcote is a celebrated socialite, living the high life, but when Wangira uses her husband’s farm in the Kenyan highlands to hide his contraband, she becomes involved with him. Ultimately, she faces the consequences of her duplicity and is forced to make a heart-rending decision that tears her life apart.
After the war, the colonial power’s control of African lives tightens, but white settlers are in danger of losing everything when the Mau Mau’s terror campaign aims to claw back their land and their freedom. Wangira believes in their cause, but resists their perverted means of achieving it, and becomes a Mau Mau target.
In England, Dana’s daughter, Emerald, looks beyond her privileged upbringing to discover a link to Africa she didn’t know existed, but is determined to explore. She meets Jelani but is unaware of his Mau Mau connections.
As the might of the Empire descends upon the Mau Mau, Jelani confronts Wangira and Emerald discovers the shocking consequences of her mother’s early life.
With the author behind the Scenes of Echoes From a Distant Land
Most of my books are inspired by stories or events I hear while visiting Kenya. Echoes from a Distant Land was created quite differently.
It was while on board P&O’s cruise ship, the Pacific Sun, as the guest author in February 2010, that I started thinking about my next book. During my talks to the Chapters Book Club – part of the light entertainment that P&O does so well on their cruise ships – I was asked whether I had experienced any cases of racism during my time while living in Kenya. The answer is yes, occasionally, from both sides. It made me think a little more about Kenya’s history, and particularly how the country went from paternalism to terrorism, within the space of a few years.
It was on my mind a few days later when my partner and I shared a bottle of bubbly on our balcony. We started talking about the changes that had occurred from around the turn of the 20th century to independence in 1963 – no more than one person’s lifetime. During those years that person would have seen the arrival of the missionaries bearing strange new ideas, the imposition of the rule of law that brought peace to the Africans, but also resulted in the loss of many rights and freedoms, and the reaction – swift and savage – to those losses.
We discussed how each side – the black Africans and white settlers – might have viewed those incendiary years. And while the bubbly slowly disappeared, I scribbled down some notes about the lives of four individuals and how the events of those first sixty or so years might have been viewed by each of them.
Echoes from a Distant Land is the result.