‘I had a farm in Africa.’ So begins the first sentence of the memoir ‘Out of Africa,’ that compelling account of Isak Dinsen’s life in Kenya. Soon I will be saying, ‘I had a house in France,’ and that made me think about whether the past tense is correct. I think I will always have a small cottage in the edge of a village near to the town of Uzes in Southern France, because it stays in my memory. Isak Dinsen used her memories to give life to her farm as she wrote about the place and the people. In the book she charts her love affair, not just with Finch-Hatton, but with the experience of living in Africa.
Our house was only a holiday home and there is no novel or memoir to be written about it, but I began to think about the places I have lived over the years and I am suprised about how well I can recall the rooms, the furniture, the sounds and the smells of those houses. In my mind I can walk round them and think of the events that happened in each one. Is that why a sense of place is so important in writing, putting characters into a context of their homes? I wonder.