Here’s a charming little book. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is a love story set in Nairobi. The protagonist, Mr. Malik is a quiet and humble widower who has nursed a crush on the widow Rose Mbikwa for years. Eventually Mr Malik works up the courage to ask Rose to the annual Nairobi Hunt Club Ball but, before he has a chance to drop his invitation in the mail, his old high school rival, Harry Khan, arrives on the scene and declares his intentions to ask Ms Mbikwa out. Harry Khan is everything that Malik is not. Brash, cocky and loud, not to mention a bit of a womanizer.
Malik and Khan belong to a private club and their fellow members, who are fond of a good wager, decide that the matter should be settled by way of a contest. The man who sees the most birds in a one week period will win the right to ask Ms Mbikwa to the ball. The approaches the two men take to the contest reflect their personalities. Harry Khan throws money at the problem while Malik quietly plugs away. Twists and turns abound.
You would think that, as an avid birder, I would love this book. I didn’t. I enjoyed it and found its light tone very pleasant but my reaction was as mild as the book itself.
The cover is printed to reflect the wear and tear of a well-loved field guide — A cute touch.