I delight in reading quirky books that break the mold and appreciate books that witness to humanity’s inherent goodness. So I was thrilled to find A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson as it meets both these criteria.
Mr. Malik is a retired Asian gentleman living in Nairobi, Kenya. Every Tuesday morning he goes bird watching with a group of bird lovers led by Rose Mbikwa. And shy Mr. Malik is gradually building up courage to ask Rose out when his nemesis from boarding school days – Harry Khan – reappears on the scene. It becomes a contest to see who will spot the most birds in a week and thereby win the opportunity to ask Rose to accompany them to the Hunt Club Ball. A humorous plot, but the characters have hidden depths, and the book detours into Kenyan politics, Somali bandits armed with AK47s and love stories.
BookBrowse.com has an interesting interview with Nicholas Drayson. When asked if he enjoys writing, he says: "When I started writing my first novel, it was so much fun. I was used to writing nature stories for magazines and had just finished a major academic dissertation—all of which involve considerable research and attention to detail. When I realized that with a novel I could just make everything up, it felt great. Freedom! But it's hard work too. Like many writers, what I really enjoy is not so much the writing, but having written."
Drayson is working on a sequel to A Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa. In the meantime, I will be looking for copies of Love and the Platypus – do they lay eggs, or don’t they? – and Confessing a Murder: A Novel about a Victorian naturalist obsessed with beetles who plays a role in developing Darwin’s theory of natural selection.