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An Unsuitable Woman

by Kat Gordon

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Historical Fiction Relationship Stories

LoveReading View on An Unsuitable Woman

A darkly glamorous tale of hedonism, shifting social sands and coming-of-age crises - think The Great Gatsby in colonial Kenya.

Fourteen-year-old Theo’s first impressions of his new life in East Africa - a world away from England - encapsulates this novel’s intoxicating sense of place: “Across the bay was Zanzibar...a stretch of brilliant white sand dotted with palms and matched by the whitewashed palace and fort at its edge. To the left I could see an Indian banyan tree, alive with vervet monkeys, and behind that, the shaded labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.” And then: “Kenya was the Africa I’d dreamed of”. 

Soon after his family’s arrival, with his father appointed new Director of the railway, Theo fatefully meets twenty-something good-timers Freddie (Lord Hamilton) and Sylvie (introduced by Freddie as an “unsuitable woman”). Described by Sylvie as “absurdly handsome”, Theo is drawn into the decadent world of their notorious Happy Valley set. Against a backdrop of fluctuating politics, he finds himself caught in a web of compromising personal conundrums, while younger sister Maud comes to identify more with the colonised population than with her own colonial class. 

Steeped in exhilarating atmosphere, coming-of-age conflicts, and historical intrigue, and boasting brilliant characterisation, this is an exquisitely entertaining showstopper of a story, best read while reclining with a comely cocktail to hand.


Joanne Owen

An Unsuitable Woman Synopsis

Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring. When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croy, he is welcomed into her inner circle - The Happy Valley Set - rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles. Yet behind Sylvie's intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya's future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman - before it is too late.

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An Unsuitable Woman Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

Like my favourite book - The Great Gatsby - only with a more heat swept location with glamour and more than a touch of intrigue. Full review

Jen Moville

Evocative coming of age story set in 1930s Kenya against a backdrop of political unrest - guaranteed to transport the reader! Full review

Rachel Hall

Addictive, intoxicating read, couldn't put it down. Thanks for my free copy. Full review


Just a wonderful read. Full review

Angie Rhodes

An interesting take on the coming-of-age genre with beautiful scenery and a vast array of eccentric and compelling characters. Full review

Sarah Jones

Wonderfully evocative and compelling story set in 1920s Kenya. Full review

Ann Peet

An intriguing and thought-provoking look at life in colonial Africa, as seen through the eyes of young Theo Miller. Who is the "unsuitable woman" that he comes to know? Full review

Angela Thomas

A fascinating historical novel of a way of life long gone, of old colonial living in Africa. Full review


On opening the book, I was immediately transported to 1920s Kenya. 1920s fans will love this book. Full review

Rachel Aygin

An interesting dark novel of glamour, secrets an intrigue set in 20s and 30s colonial Kenya in a time of British supremacy well recommended. Full review

Jane Brown

Coming of age story depicting 1930s Kenya during a period of political unrest. Follow Theo’s journey of growing up during this turbulent times. Full review

Helen Appleby

An Unsuitable Woman Press Reviews

`A rich reimagining of a colonial Eden in which multitudes of serpents lurked' Sunday Times

`Kat Gordon has written a gloriously dark tale, packed with heat and glamour, and shot through with a fine, sharp edge. An absolutely compulsive read from beginning to end' - LIZA KLAUSSMANN, author of Tigers in Red Weather

`An evocative coming-of-age tale ... Just the thing to read while sipping a cocktail or two' i newsaper

`Equally at home evoking the landscapes of east Africa and those of the flawed, capricious human heart ... a seductive, troubling journey into Britain's colonial past' - ANNA HOPE, author of Wake and The Ballroom

`An outstanding achievement. This thrilling, evocative novel will transport and absorb you: brilliant' - EMMA CHAPMAN, author of The Last Photograph

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780008253097
Publication date: 16/05/2019
Publisher: The Borough Press an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780008253097
Publication date: 16th May 2019
Author: Kat Gordon
Publisher: The Borough Press an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 368 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories,
Categories: Historical fiction, Historical romance,

About Kat Gordon

Kat Gordon was born and grew up London, attending Camden School for Girls. She read English at Somerville College, Oxford and worked at Time Out briefly after graduating, before travelling around America for 3 months then returning to Africa to travel and work as a teacher and HIV counsellor. Since finishing her MA in Creative Writing in 2009 she also worked as a gymnastics coach. She lives with her boyfriend (also a writer), and their cat. Seven months ago they moved to Budapest, and then Reykjavik, to concentrate on writing and to see some Icelandic trolls.

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