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Atmospheric Kenya.

A Change in Altitude: A Novel - Anita Shreve

I listened to the unabridged audiobook of this book, read by Laurence Bouvard, and I enjoyed it more than I had expected, given that it was primarily a book about hiking. 

Although I was irritated by how little training the characters had done before attempting to climb Mount Kenya, I was interested in the whole expat experience of living in Kenya, particularly the interactions of the lesser characters; the staff and other Kenyan personalities.


Margaret and Patrick have not been married long, when he has the opportunity to travel to Kenya to study tropical medicine and work as a doctor at the same time. They happen upon Arthur and Diana, who have a house to let on their property, and Margaret and Patrick move in. Their new landlords are keen to climb Mount Kenya and Patrick persuades Margaret that it would be a good idea. With no fitness preparation at all, it comes as no surprise that Margaret is soon struggling. Events escalate in a rather unbelievable manner, resulting in a tragic accident to a character that I wasn't sorry to lose.

The rest of the novel is Margaret and Patrick's attempt to come to terms with this event.


Having written this, I ask myself why I gave the book four stars, but it was the peripheral characters and events that I most enjoyed; the housemaid who is attacked and the houseboy who helps Margaret get her stories for a paper that she writes for. The photographers she works with and the events she covers were far more fascinating than the central narrative. The feel for life in part of Africa was well written, and this was the book's strength. For me, the climb was just a distraction.