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Wildflower by Mark Seal

(Hachette, $38.99) The Ginger and I were lucky enough to spend Christmas 2005 in Kenya. A dear friend of ours had her 50th birthday on the coast, then we went to stay with her cousin on a farm at Lake Naivasha, near Nairobi. The wildlife roamed free in their front yard and every morning I would get up and go for a run, past the waterbucks and wildebeests and giraffes, to the lake, which was full of hippos. It was the most tranquil, awe-inspiring experience I have ever had.

But just days after we got back to New Zealand, we got word that our friends’ neighbour had been brutally murdered in her lakeside home. Her name was Joan Root and she had worked most of her life trying to conserve the beautiful lake that I ran to and from. This book is the story of her intriguing life and horribly sad death.

An absolute bombshell, Joan married her soul mate, Alan Root, when she was in her early twenties and they spent the next two decades making wildlife films and documentaries that helped spark the global interest in conservation. Alan saw the writing on the wall years before anyone else did and knew it was important to capture Africa the way it was, because it soon wasn’t going to be that way. He broke Joan’s heart when he left her for another woman and Joan’s passion turned to saving Lake Naivasha. For years, the lake provided a lush backdrop for the cocktail parties of the British settlers known as the Happy Valley set, with the African animals roaming freely between properties, but when flower-growers discovered what a goldmine that big reservoir with a hot climate was, the exploitation began.

Exit wildlife; enter corruption, chemicals, theft, destruction and death. If you want proof that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket but that some good people will fight to the death to save it, this is it. Not worthy or dull but a captivating true story set in a dying world, brilliantly written by Vanity

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