This is a complex novel which depicts the final turbulent months of war in Rhodesia, before its transition into Zimbabwe. The narrative is told from the perspectives of three very different women. Sue Haig is British and moved to Rhodesia because of her husband’s work, but has become embittered by the racial tensions, the threats to their privileged lifestyle and the death of one of her sons. Beth Lytton is a British nun working in a church mission in an African Reserve, which she has adopted as her home. Nyanye Maseka is a black Rhodesian, now living in a guerrilla camp in Mozambique, having fled the country with her sister. As a result of the war the lives of these woman intersect.
I personally found this quite a hard read, both in terms of the graphic portrayal of the violence and the language used. Many of the native words used were not fully explained, so the reader was left to make their own interpretation. The storyline was also confusing at times for anyone who was not familiar with the history and politics of the country and because of switches back and forth in time.
However, through using the voices of the three women, the author managed to successfully interweave a number of key themes, primarily the fight of the indigenous black population for independence from the European settlers and the existing friction with the white Afrikaners. Superimposed on this was the role of the Christian missions and the rights and wrongs of the work they were attempting to do, as well as the plight of the ‘coloured’ children, who were rejected by both the black and white communities.
Overall, I’m glad that I persevered with the novel and feel sure that the would be plenty of material for a book group discussion.
Reviewed by Hilary Whorrall
Published by Weaver Press (11 Jan. 2021)
Paperback, ISBN 978-1779223838