I’ve been itching to read this novel since its inception. Four years ago I sat in a small coffee shop in London talking to a wonderful fellow author, Kat Gordon. She had just published The Artificial Anatomy of Parks and told me about her latest story: a novel set in Kenya in the 1920s; a young, impressionable protagonist, Theo; the infamous Happy Valley Set; a murder; a family drama… I was hooked.
As soon as I knew that it was available in the UK I had it shipped over to me in Concord, New Hampshire and as the snow began to fall outside, I reached for The Hunters and let Kat Gordon sweep me away to the heat and the dust and the dazzling beauty of Kenya, a country I feature in my third novel, Before I Was Yours, and which I visited in 2009.
There is so much I love about this book. The rich evocation of Kenya – its colours, smells and atmosphere. The ache of first love so devastatingly portrayed in the relationship between Theo and Sylvie. The Great Gatsby like spirit of The Happy Valley set which took me back to a novel I love and have taught over and over: the parties, the money, the morally ambiguous behaviour. Oh, and of course, the animals – how could I not fall in love with a book that features a pet lion and a pet monkey! As the mother of two – soon three – children, the sibling bond between Theo and Maud, one which comes to be much deeper and more precious than any romantic relationship, moved me hugely.
The Hunters is a historical novel but it doesn’t feel heavy or burdened by historical detail: the writing is fresh, original and lyrical and, like all good historical fiction, it speaks to our times.
This would make a lovely Christmas present – I know that I’ll be pressing it into the hands of friends and family. And if you’re an English literature teacher looking for a fabulous book to compare to The Great Gatsby, this novel is a gift.