Elspeth Huxley Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

What distinguishes Elspeth Huxley’s crime novels is their focus on Africa, specifically on the British colonial experience in Africa. All but one of the novels is set in colonial Africa, and the one that is not features a character from Africa who keeps remembering his past and whose actions are motivated by what happened to him there. According to Huxley, her decision to write from the British point of view about Africa harmed her popularity because the intellectual fashion was to criticize British colonialism and express sympathy with native Africans. Nevertheless, her mysteries were generally praised, though her most popular work was not a mystery but her memoir of her childhood in Africa, The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (1959).


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cross, Robert. “Elspeth Huxley: A Voice from the Flame Trees.” The Guardian, January 13, 1997, p. 016. In this obituary, Cross reviews the life of Huxley, noting her love of farming, Africa, and writing. Briefly describes some of her writings.

Dawkins, Richard. “Out of the Soul of Africa: Rereadings.” Financial Times, May 9, 1998, p. 05. Dawkins, an admirer of Huxley, discusses her work Red Strangers and her attitude toward Africa.

Huxley, Elspeth. Out in the Midday Sun: My Kenya. London: Chatto & Windus, 1985. Describes Huxley’s time in Africa when she returned there in 1933 as an adult. Sheds light on her thoughts and attitudes.

Lassner, Phyllis. “Red Strangers: Elspeth Huxley’s Africa.” In Colonial Strangers: Women Writing the End of the British Empire. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Disagrees with those who see Huxley’s writings as colonialist or racist. Sees them as complex explorations of the British experience in Africa. Includes section on the three Vachell mysteries and also discusses A Man from Nowhere.

Nicholls, C. S. Elspeth Huxley: A Biography. London: HarperCollins, 2002. Full account of Huxley’s life and career, showing how important Africa, especially Kenya, was to her. Includes photographs, maps, genealogies, an index, and a bibliography.

Russell, Sharon A. “Elspeth Huxley’s Africa: Mystery and Memory.” In Mysteries of Africa, edited by Eugene Schleh. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1991. Emphasizes the importance of African settings in Huxley’s mysteries as well as in her other writings. Also discusses the themes of modernization and the role of the past in her works.