A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.
Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.
Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.
Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.
I finished this book over a week ago and am struggling to write a review. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did; there were some great parts. But… Oh, the ‘but.’ It was so problematic. And infuriating. And doused in the “White Savior Complex.”
I don’t want to get too into it but, let’s just say that the main character, Delilah, is presented as this forward thinker, innovator and general overall lover of equality while the rest of the characters are racists with antiquated views of the world. Delilah, in addition to the audience, recognizes the other Caucasian characters as sexist, racist, privileged bigots who want to white-wash all of Africa. (And I say Africa, not Kenya, because that is exactly how the author speaks. Raybourn never makes the point to mention that there are different countries, and Kenya just so happens to be the location of this story.)
My problem with the characters and how Raybourn addresses the African continent that it illustrates Delilah is the white woman who has come to save Africa from… well, their culture. She wants to fix just about everything about their way of life there because she believes her way of life to be better. But in doing this, both Raybourn, Delilah and other characters clump the plethora of cultures and countries in Africa together, effectively erasing their individuality and therefore presenting the audience with an entirely Western perspective.
That’s my main problem with this book. Other than the fact that the male characters are inherently sexists towards just about every woman they meet but we all can’t live in a world where men are glamour beings who never disrespect women.
Would I recommend this book…. Eh, yes I would. Maybe a bit begrudgingly because I did enjoy it. There’s romance, adventure, and great one-liners.