Book & Movie Review: Out of Africa

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it.

How I First Encountered Out of Africa

I have been in love with Africa for as long as I can remember. So I was always looking for books, movies and anything else that involved Africa to fill my time. I’m not sure exactly when I how I heard about Out of Africa, but it was added to my big list of things to read/watch. But then the years passed by and I never really got around to reading the book or watching the movie. However this story was always in the back of my mind and I considered on a number of occasions picking up a copy of either the book or movie and scratching it off my list. I finally borrowed it from the library a few months ago so that I could read it and then a few weeks later I watched the movie.

The Book

Out of Africa is a book I have wanted to read for a number of years now. I love stories set in Africa and so this book had an instant appeal for me based solely on that, but what I really wanted to see was the story of the author living in Africa while running a coffee plantation and overcoming the obstacles that come along with that.

The first thing that struck me in this book was the writing. Often times I find older books can be difficult to read simply because the writing style is so vastly different than what we see today that it can take hours to get through even a small section of it. Yet with Out of Africa I found myself thoroughly enjoying the writing style. The words flowed so freely along the pages that one minute I would be on the first page and before I knew it I was well over a hundred pages in and it felt like only the briefest of time had passed since I started to read. The way things were described I could almost see the scene with my own eyes, seeing what the author was describing, smelling the scents and hearing the sounds of Africa, the plantation and the people who lived and worked there.

Each section of the story highlights a certain person or event during the authors time on the plantation. Whether it’s nursing a sick worker back to health, a prolonged drought, dealing with lions invading the lands or the trial of a Kikuyu man, each chapter is described in the same vivid detail.

One thing that surprised me was how little the author spoke about herself. Yes, she was involved in every part of the story in some way, but the bulk of the book concentrated on the world around her, not on what she did. And as this book is considered biography that certainly struck me as odd, I had expected her to be more prevalent in her own story as she was. But aside from this I found the story to be thoroughly enjoyable as it allowed the reader to see a small slice of Africa and what it was like for a white woman to run a plantation in the early 1900’s.

The Movie

I can’t say that I was blown away by the movie, nor did I not enjoy it. The movie was simply okay, at least as far as the story aspect of it went. I really enjoyed the scenery and the few glimpses into Africa that were throughout. However since it is more of a love story than anything else I found it hard to thoroughly enjoy it. I think that Meryl Streep and Robert Redford did fairly good jobs of filling their respective roles of Karen and Denys. In fact I feel that Redford did a very good job of portraying the adventurous hunter Denys. It was Streep’s performance as Karen that made me cringe just a bit. The reason for this is the accent. I’m not expert on accents however I found that her accent throughout this book was strong in some scenes and others it seemed to have completely faded away. That inconsistency bothered me a bit and made me feel that the movie wasn’t as put together as it could have been.

Overall the movie was simply okay. It kept me semi-entertained for a good two hours and I can say that I have finally watched this movie that has been on my to watch list for a number of years. I’m sure if I was a greater fan of romantic movies I might have enjoyed it more.

How They Compare To Each Other

There are very few similarities between this book and movie. Where the book seemed to outline the events that surrounded Karen’s life but barely focus on her, the movie was about Karen and her relationship with Denys, as well as a few other aspects of her life. If anything I feel as though the movie fills in the gaps that I felt were missing from the book. I had wanted to see more about Karen and her life and the movie helped to fulfill that, to detail things that were only mentioned within the pages of the book and not fully explained.

The movie also showed a bit more about Karen’s relationship, or lack there of, with her husband, which again was something that was only touched upon in the book. I realize that the movie is not only based upon her book Out of Africa, but on a few of the other books she wrote about her life, so the movie is not an exact representation of it’s namesake book. However I feel that between the book and movie the reader/viewer is given a full view of Karen’s life, her struggles and victories within Africa, the life she lived on her farm, the people whom she loved and protected and how things fell apart for her.

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