Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
Apparently, my great love for “Babette’s Feast” fooled me into thinking I would love every single thing that Karen Blixen (pseudonymously known as Isak Dinesen) wrote. If you read my review of Out of Africa, you’ll know that’s not the case. And it’s certainly doubly true here.
Like Out of Africa, I read this collection of four essays quickly, because it was just a slog. But because I committed to reading ALL the unread books on my shelf, I couldn’t abandon the project in February. So here I am. Shadows on the Grass is a late reflection of Blixen’s life in Africa, with four major essays that expand on Out of Africa and come late in her life, filled with reflections and afterthoughts that never made it into the first book. She writes extensively about her servant, Farah, and the end of his life. She writes about a letter she receives from the King of Sweden, which figures strangely in her medical and healing practices. That essay was actually genuinely fascinating, because it showed how cultural misunderstandings and psychologies work to ascribe importance to objects that may not actually achieve what they are supposed to.
Again, Blixen is an accomplished writer, but this was mostly fairly forgettable. I did not like hearing about all.that.hunting. I don’t believe I’ll teach this collection of essays, and I don’t necessarily give it a hearty endorsement. So this book will be moving down life’s pathway, and I will be, as well. I’ll definitely have to give her short story collection a re-read, however. That was excellent. [Again, my fiction bias is showing, isn’t it?]