PoachingFacts rating: 3 of 5 stars
From the first page author Brian Connell brings his deep love for wildlife and the African experience with him to South Africa where he was a safari lodge owner and photographer guide. Although Connell was born in Kenya, making him an outsider to the South African, and Zulu, way of life, he is very much an insider to the African way of life and has clearly adopted a holistic perspective of the world that compliments his upbringing. The memoir is extraordinary in its passionate nature and candid style, making it easy to befriend Connell as he recounts his journey with his trusted South African comrades Msomi and Robert. The three are truly lovable and their gregarious nature, teasing, scheming, and banter makes them feel like the perfect characters in a sitcom — but they are all real! — and readers will come to know each of them as fondly as if they had visited Nokuthula in person.
The theme of Msomi and Me: Tales from the African bush focuses on life at Nokuthula and is told in a series of raw snapshots presented in chronological order. It is also a sort of biography of the people who were such powerful forces in his life and essential to the spirit of Nokuthulu. Each chapter is only as long as it needs to be, often alternating between stories of Nokuthula and folk stories told by Msomi as captured and remembered by the author. These charming tales make it difficult to put down this book or its sequels. Not everything is perfectly peaceful at Nokuthula, the “Place of Peace,” but it is undeniably a warm-hearted memoir full of spirit.
In many ways this series of memoirs are an elegy and a very personal epic journey that the author has embarked on. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fairly critique. Connell demonstrates a great deal of literary chutzpah to overcome sometimes abrupt chapters of poetry and anecdotes that sometimes left adrift. In some of Connell’s works he falls into the trap of repeating some misinformation about conservation and wildlife behaviors, but has since learned from. Unfortunately these remain uncorrected for readers who might not know any better or who don’t pick up the next book in the series. In particular, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers are not soulless “breeding centers” and are not in any way like South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry which does not release captive-bred animals back into the wild.
We recommend that if readers enjoy Msomi and Me, the first book written, that they quickly follow it up with its companion memoir Elephants Are People Too, and the second book in the series. The books don’t fully stand alone, so the background information in Msomi and Me makes for the foundation of a truly heart-warming saga.
Readers interested in a deeper and equally touching story of life in the wild would be wise to look up Kobie Krüger‘s The Wilderness Family: At Home with Africa’s Wildlife. It is a warm and vibrant depiction of the reality of the South African Lowveld as experienced by her game warden husband and their family living inside the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa. Like Msomi and Me, The Wilderness Family combines a special, uniquely African sense of freedom in the wild with humorous and heartfelt anecdotes that will take the reader on a true journey through South Africa.
Readers keen on exotic African adventures and wildlife behavior will enjoy the exciting adventures of Gareth Patterson who has written several books on life with lions. These books include To Walk with Lions, Last of the Free, and My Lion’s Heart: A Life for the Lions of Africa, which detail lion instincts, behavior, and the challenges involved in raising lions and what considerations must be made before lions can be considered for release back into the wild.