Too Close to the Sun

If you liked the movie Out of Africa, you will enjoy reading about Isak Dineson’s real life lover, Denys Finch Hatton in Sara Wheeler’s Too Close to the Sun. His uncle was the Earl of Winchilsea, a title later inherited by Denys’ brother. He grew up on the family estate, Haverholme Priority in Lincolnshire.

An indifferent student at Eton, he was very popular and loved playing pranks. He excelled in sports as well in carousing.

After leaving college, he ended up in Africa, first as an unsuccessful farmer, later trying mining before finding his true calling as a game hunting guide. On one occasion,he acted as guide to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward.

Though Karen Blixon ( also known as Isak Dineson) was devoted to him, he could never stay in one place for long. For three years he lived at her coffee farm off and on. She felt like the happiest woman on the earth when he stayed with her, but was plunged into the depths of misery when he went off for months on end. She struggled to convince herself that she was OK with it.

“She was trying to accept  that love can exist, and flourish, without possession, she was willing herself to believe it.”

The movie portrays Karen as being possessive, but Wheeler defends her, saying, “Tania’s friends concluded that Denys left her, in the end, because he was being suffocated by her possessiveness. But she wasn’t possessive. She loved him and he didn’t love her– at least not enough, anyway.” A lot of us know how that feels!

It has been said that Hatton Finch was a great man that never achieved greatness. He loved opera and poetry and was well-read. He led an exciting and unusual life and charmed those around him. It is true that he never achieved anything lasting before his early death.

In his latter years, he became more interested in shooting  the animals with a camera than a gun and was instrumental in creating several wildlife refuges. He continued to lead huinting parties until his small plane stalled in mid-air and he fell to his death at the age of 43.

People who enjoy reading this would be interested to know about the other woman he loved, an accomplished pilot and free spirit, Beryl Markham. She wrote her own story in West with the Night. 

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