A mesmerizing novel of love and nostalgia set in the vast spaces of contemporary East Africa.
Romantic, often resonantly ironic, moving and wise, Rules of the Wild transports us to a landscape of unsurpassed beauty even as it gives us a sharp-eyed portrait of a closely knit tribe of cultural outsiders: the expatriates living in Kenya today. Challenged by race, by class, and by a longing for home, here are "safari boys" and samaritans, reporters bent on their own fame, travelers who care deeply about elephants but not at all about the people of Africa. They all know each other. They meet at dinner parties, they sleep with each other, they argue about politics and the best way to negotiate their existence in a place where they don't really belong.
At the center is Esmé, a beautiful young woman of dazzling ironies and introspections, who tells us her story in a voice both passionate and self-deprecating. Against a paradoxical backdrop of limitless physical freedom and escalating civil unrest, Esmé struggles to make sense of her own place in Africa and of her feelings for the two men there whom she loves--Adam, a second-generation Kenyan who is the first to show her the wonders of her adopted land, and Hunter, a British journalist sickened by its horrors.
Rules of the Wild evokes the worlds of Isak Dinesen, Beryl Markham, and Ernest Hemingway. It explores unforgettably our infinite desire for a perfect elsewhere, for love and a place to call home. It is an astonishing literary debut.
The voice of Italian-born narrator Esme, which seduces the reader into the world of this intelligent first novel, is sad, tense, darkly foreboding, secretly desperate. From the beginning, we know that this will be a story of missed opportunities, failed love affairs, unfulfilled longings. Juxtaposed with the tale of a woman trying to find herself is a trenchant and striking picture of contemporary Africa. Esme flees Italy for Kenya after the death of her charismatic father, a poet, and is grateful to find security in an affair with idealistic safari operator Adam. Africa initially seems a paradise to Esme. She is welcomed into the inbred white community of Nairobi, where alcohol and drugs are routine pleasures, everyone has slept with everyone else and the colonial attitude toward blacks has not changed. When she meets a burning social conscience, restless Esme recognizes a kindred spirit, and their passionate affair threatens to destroy the only haven she has known. Hunter has covered the carnage in Somalia and Rwanda, and his insistence that Esme acknowledge the "real" Africa--the poverty in which most Africans live, the despoliation of the environment--unsettles her already fragile emotional balance. In the end, she will be caught between two worlds, two lovers and two visions of the future. Marciano's passion for the spectacular landscape of Africa is almost palpable. Her character analysis is often profound as she delicately conveys the moral complexities of social and personal issues. Her Africa is a paradox in every sense: beautiful and tragic, luxuriant and rotting, paradise and hell, Esme's nemesis and her salvation. This resonantly ironic, beautifully observed novel announces an impressive new talent. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour; rights sold in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, France, Holland and Brazil; simultaneous Random House audio.