Journalist St. John (Hardcore Troubadour, 2003, etc.) remembers growing up on a Rhodesian farm in the twilight of colonial Africa.
Her recollections of a mid-1970s girlhood have the engaging intimacy of Anne of Green Gables, counterpointed by the drumbeats of war in the background. Daily living was stressful for white farmers who saw the native majority’s freedom struggle as a terrorist nightmare. The author’s overprotective mother and workaholic father, a part-time soldier in the Rhodesian military forces, worked doggedly to secure Rainbow’s End Farm against an apocalypse that was, in retrospect, inevitable. Yet St. John nostalgically evokes her deep attachments to a bevy of animal companions, including a warthog named Beauty and an eight-foot python, and beautifully describes the harrowing birth during an epic African rainstorm of the stallion colt she’d wished for her entire life. Such timeless events can make politics seem trivial, if only for a moment. But less than ten pages after the colt’s arrival, the author is telling us about the .38 revolver she was given to keep in the car in case of an ambush. Her father also explained to her that landmines could be hidden under cow dung. St. John took refuge by mentally fleeing the whole situation whenever possible. Nonetheless, she was sensitive to—and portrays here in revealing detail—the nuances of manners and protocols practiced between whites and Africans, particularly as they slowly began to unravel in the ratcheting tension. Ultimately, her parents’ marriage unraveled as well. The family’s departure from Rainbow’s End when the author was 17 gives the book its heartbreaking dénouement. “In war and sometimes in marriage,” St. John reflects, “you start out on the right side, then history moves on and you’re on the wrong side.”
Articulates a dream and a love of Africa that makes Zimbabwe’s fate under Robert Mugabe seem all the more crueler.