An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa
by Mark Seal
Hachette Australia. Adult Non-Fiction. Paperback RRP $32.99
Joan and Alan Root were pioneer film-makers in Africa in the 1960s and 70s. They took us inside termite mounds, over the jungles of Africa in a hot air balloon and swimming with hippos, sea lions and marine iguanas. Alan was usually the on-camera force, but nothing would have been possible without Joan’s amazing organisational skills and courage.
Mark Seal is an investigative journalist who brings the jungles of Africa to throbbing life in Wildflower. I flinch at the injuries Alan and Joan sustained and feel my eyes widen at the incredible adventures they enjoyed on a daily basis. No detail is spared as Mark paints word pictures of both breathtaking beauty and unforgiving landscapes. That was and is life in Africa.
The industrial revolution of flower-growing around Lake Naivasha (Kenya) is also outlined in detail. It’s a story of commercial intrigue, political snakes and ladders and humanity’s struggle to survive. Who are the good guys and bad guys in the imminent death of this irreplaceable ecosystem? It depends on your point of view.
Wildflower is Joan’s story. Shy and retiring in her youth, Joan’s passion for wildlife led her to become a powerful anti-poaching force in her later years. She chose to remain in Kenya in the late 1990s even when several friends were brutally murdered for their strong conservation beliefs. I was mesmerised by the lives these white crusaders led, but what captivated me more was Joan’s unrequited love story.
She was irresistible. Physically attractive as well as having a deep spiritual resilience, I struggled to accept there might not be a ‘happily ever after’ for her. I turned every page, hoping her luck would change.
Rivetting is the only word I can find to describe Wildflower.