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The Last Maasai Warrior by Frank Coates is a tricky book to sum up.
Part legal drama, part historical fiction the book concentrates on the two opposing forces of the East African colonial period; the native Maasai landowners and the British settlers.
The novel is heavily centred on the battle waged by the British settlers against the traditionally governed Maasai people, for control over Maasai-land (an area bordering Kenya and Tanzania).
The Last Maasai Warrior is told through the point of view of multiple characters, so in a sense there is no ‘main character’ to identify with.
The Maasai side of the conflict is mostly explored through Ole Sadera, a prophesied leader and high ranking warrior.
George Coll represents the white settlers who establish a friendship with the African people and attempted to fight the Government from within its own ranks. The rest of the novels actors cover all the ranges in-between.
It’s not a particularly fast pasted plot nor are the characters fleshed out enough to really engage the reader in that respect.
What makes this a memorable read is the hundreds of little things going on in the background.I particularly enjoyed the tidbits of traditional Maasai customs and language which is woven through out the novel.
The Last Maasai Warrior feels like a well researched project and resists the temptation to present a single sided, ‘blinkered’ story.
It’s a must read for anyone interested in pre-war British East African (or rather, Kenyan) history and the clashing interests between the British white settlers and the Maasai people.
Frank Coates is an interesting character himself (check out his autobiography). A native Melbournian, he spent five years in Kenya on a United Nations mission.
Whilst there he became personally involved with the Kenyan people and their culture before he returned to Australia and started to pen his collection.
All of Coates’ books are set around the Kenyan landscape and its people, and are rooted in historical events and/or autobiographical accounts. In this context, The Last Maasai is fairly typical in its subject matter and style and I consider it a smaller piece of a larger series of examinations on a country often at the centre of much political and cultural turmoil.