In this novel set in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, a Danish former diplomat and her Canadian husband cope with hardships as the country’s economy collapses in the wake of Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reforms.
As a seasoned diplomat, Bodie has lived all over the world and experienced many cultures. Since the 1990s, she and her husband, Clyde, have been in Africa, mostly in Zimbabwe. Clyde, who runs a plant that produces agricultural carts, is currently recovering from lung cancer. But unfortunately for them, the president of the country, Robert Mugabe, recently embarked on a campaign of discriminatory land reform, which led to international sanctions, resulting in the collapse of the country’s economy. Clyde and Bodie must endure the subsequent hyperinflation, food shortages, power outages and the harassment of whites. Yet through it all, as she goes from place to place searching—sometimes in vain—for the basic necessities, she and her friends and acquaintances meet and talk and share drinks and generally do what they must to maintain some semblance of a normal life. Bodie’s story unfolds as a series of episodes, ranging from the poor treatment her sick, white piano teacher received at the hospital to the kidnapping of her husband. Through it all, Bodie and Clyde look for a way out without completely giving up on the business they’ve worked so hard to build. Told in the first person, Sim’s novel unfolds in crisp, matter-of-fact prose. She has a keen eye for cultural differences, and she presents life in Zimbabwe in clear detail. Her character sketches bring the people suffering under Mugabe’s rule into sharp focus, the only exception being Clyde, who never seems to come fully to life in the way other characters do. But that’s only a minor quibble in this otherwise excellent and informative book.
A well-written, fascinating look at day-to-day life in a nation on the brink of collapse.