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After his father's heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives. On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards into thejaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator. And yet long after After his father's heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives. On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards into thejaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator. And yet long after their comfortable lifestyle had been shattered and millions were fleeing, his parents refuse to leave, steadfast in their allegiance to the failed state that has been their adopted home for 50 years.Then Godwin discovered a shocking family secret that helped explain their loyalty. Africa was his father's sanctuary from another identity, another world.WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN is a stirring memoir of the disintegration of a family set against the collapse of a country. But it is also a vivid portrait of the profound strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.


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After his father's heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives. On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards into thejaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator. And yet long after After his father's heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives. On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards into thejaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator. And yet long after their comfortable lifestyle had been shattered and millions were fleeing, his parents refuse to leave, steadfast in their allegiance to the failed state that has been their adopted home for 50 years.Then Godwin discovered a shocking family secret that helped explain their loyalty. Africa was his father's sanctuary from another identity, another world.WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN is a stirring memoir of the disintegration of a family set against the collapse of a country. But it is also a vivid portrait of the profound strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

30 review for When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    . For me, personally, I think this is the saddest book I have ever read. Written by a superbly evocative writer - Africa commentator and renowned journalist,Peter Godwin - it details the trials of people living in Zimbabwe between 1996 and 2003. Parallel to this it is also a memoir of his family at this time, particularly his parents, who lived and worked in Zimbabwe for most of their adult lives. They dedicated their lives to this country. His mother was a doctor, who worked in a local hospital u . For me, personally, I think this is the saddest book I have ever read. Written by a superbly evocative writer - Africa commentator and renowned journalist,Peter Godwin - it details the trials of people living in Zimbabwe between 1996 and 2003. Parallel to this it is also a memoir of his family at this time, particularly his parents, who lived and worked in Zimbabwe for most of their adult lives. They dedicated their lives to this country. His mother was a doctor, who worked in a local hospital until she was 75, because there was no-one to replace her. Both his parents were utterly committed to Zimbabwe, and refused to leave, even when life there got incredibly tough and threatening. With masterful finesse, Godwin peels back the veneer of civilization that so many of us take for granted, and exposes the brutal realities of life in a failed state. Most of all he discusses the lives of those who were once the leaders of that society - the white ex pats...now being persecuted and often savagely beaten up. The mind boggles as to what life must be like for those at the bottom of the pecking order. Those most vulnerable seem to be the Zimbabweans who worked on white farms, and often remained loyal to their employers. Except what price loyalty when life is brutalizing and threatening, and survival is tenuous? Godwin shows several people who turned upon their employers simply because life was untenable if they did not do so. In August 2002 alone, there were 80,000 displaced farm workers. He shows us a government absolutely rife with corruption, nepotism and lies. Mugabe is letting his people starve, yet denies these realities in order to keep face. He refuses to let foreign food aid through to those parts of Zimbabwe where his political rivals have support. The average lifespan of a Zimbabwe man has dropped from 60 years at Independence, to 34 years today. Mugabe himself lives in extreme luxury. Yet the myth of the man as Zimbabwe's liberator lives on. When "New African" magazine surveys its readers to find the top African leaders 'of all time', they rate Mugabe third (behind Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana.) He also discusses what it is like to be an ex-colonial, and the guilt, perplexities, and ruminations that this involves. "It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man. And the second worst thing was his departure. Colonialism lasted just long enough to destroy much of Africa's indigenous culture and traditions but not long enough to leave behind a durable replacement." (I would add also that we - yes I too am an ex-colonial white South African - we did virtually nothing to help educate people in the new culture and technology we brought with us, and that was a terrible curse that we placed upon them. In fact we did all we could to keep them uneducated in these matters.) Godwin's bitterness surfaces most of all when he discusses his feelings about Cape Town.(view spoiler)[ "I always wanted to love Cape Town....I tried to live there, but after six months I gagged on its isolation from the rest of the continent... It doesn't feel like the rest of Africa. It sometimes feels to me as though Cape Town might also serve as the white man's last redoubt, where our vanguards will hold back the onslaught...the black peril...while our women and children board lifeboats out to the tall ships in False Bay, ships that will take us back to England and Holland and France and Germany, or to ex-colonies where we have conveniently decimated the indigenous inhabitants, to North America and the Antipodes." (hide spoiler)] This book doesn't only discuss the tragedies of Zimbabwe.... Godwin also learns during these years that he is half Jewish, and his research about his father's family take him back to the horrendous practices at Treblinka, the Nazi extermination camp in Poland. These too are described in the book. I think this is one of the most unsettling books I have ever read, and I still feel quite distressed thinking about it. It is however a book that I think everyone with a colonial history ought to read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    Peter Goodwin writes a detailed memoir of his life in Zimbabwe, his father's history as a Jew in disguise, and the turmoil of his Zimbabwean heritage as a white member of a minority group. The story is comprehensive in that it touches on all the aspects, although not in tedious details, defining Africa as it is today and how it came about. He includes a lot of details of various aspects of the madness happening in Zimbabwe which he derived from various articles he wrote for different media outle Peter Goodwin writes a detailed memoir of his life in Zimbabwe, his father's history as a Jew in disguise, and the turmoil of his Zimbabwean heritage as a white member of a minority group. The story is comprehensive in that it touches on all the aspects, although not in tedious details, defining Africa as it is today and how it came about. He includes a lot of details of various aspects of the madness happening in Zimbabwe which he derived from various articles he wrote for different media outlets. But then he includes his family's personal history to remain true to the memoir-format of the book. He also draws a comparison to the holocaust events of what is happening to whites in Zimbabwe. I was constantly aware that the events were treated as journalistic exercises. However, it is a sad report on how quickly a country turned from a food basket to a dust bowl when things went wrong. "When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical - a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is nlikely." "Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised in some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such as sudden and violent upending of value systems." Different readers obviously focus on different aspect of the story. There are many reviews on Goodreads, providing other insights into the story. I don't want to add yet another comment on the actual content of the book, but would rather prefer to look at the underlying message in the book about human rights and how selectively it is applied to different situations in the world. Africa is a place where calculated acts of cultural and racial genocide, combined with xenophobia, take on totally different colors than the officially defined. Let's summarize the actual, official definition of human rights first and then look at the story from different perspectives: HUMAN RIGHTS In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble, the following statements are made: (Source: United Nations Department of Public Information, NY) Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and ppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations, Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,... READ MORE..Who really has the teeth to address this issue? Not the UN, where Russia and China sanction any actions against their 'friends'. The two countries whose human rights records stink up the universe, have the veto right on it. FROM A COMMUNIST PERSPECTIVE Comparing the events in Zimbabe, actually everywhere in Africa, where landowners of different colors have been expropriated in different ways(mostly violent murders), to the events in all countries where Communism took over - the absolutely shocking horror and atrocities used in executing the decision, the evidence of similar patrons is spread all over the place. In the case of Zimbabwe, and South Africa as well, although more subtle, the modus operandi is more Maoistic than Stalanistic with all the cruelties included of Mao's believes and conduct. But Wole Soyinka, the Nobel prize-winning Nigerian writer, (P.266) "compares the Zimbabwean land-reform program with Stalin's land collectivization in Soviet Russia, designed to get rid of the kulaks, the pre-revolutionary commercial farmers whom he saw as a political threat." A much more accurate comparison, in my opinion, can be drawn with Máo's land reform in which landgrabbers were instructed to kill and take whatever they wanted. It is very well illustrated in the book ' Wild Swans - three daughters of China' by Jung Chang. I can add, for shock value, the photos of the genocidal slaughtering, because that is what it is, of the white farmers and their families in both countries, but the reader can find thousands of it on the internet. There are hundreds of organizations trying to create awareness and attract attention to these senseless, barbaric murders. But the world is officially turning a blind eye. Unofficially little more is done. For instance, white refugees are not handled the same way as other refugee under international law. As soon as a white person apply for refugee status, an uproar is stage and the sympathy is shifted to the offended black regime who claim to be victims of prejudice as well as colonization and hidden racist agendas. They are quick to add that they cannot be held responsible for some citizens who want to take revenge. And so some people back down. But countries such as China are not interested in what happens inside the walls of the house being plundered for their hungry economy. They simply subsidize Zimbabwe's government expenses and keep Mugabe in power for their own ends. And this way many eyes from countries that need Africa's wealth turn many blind eyes. After all, who wants to be accused of being fascist thugs? FROM A WORLD PERSPECTIVE With just about the entire world dependent on Africa's wealth of resources, the outcome of Africa's history is determined by corporations and political big wigs with their hands in the cookie jars. In order of importance, Human Rights are so irrelevant, it is considered to be like a small asthmatic fish dying on dry land, no matter how noble the intentions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been. There are much bigger fish to catch in this vast ocean of African wealth which demands much more attention and promises much more profits. FROM AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE What started out as a noble idea of liberating Africa from thousands of years of oppression, ended up in a cesspool of a carefully selected cleptrocratic, nepotistic group of despots raping the continent's wealth and keeping themselves in power with barbaric clamp-downs on the inhabitants. For every white person being murdered, another five Africans are killed by their own governments for opposing these mafiosos in power. I found the Goodwin book a true version of events - accurate, insightful, and well executed. Being a memoir, it discusses a family's situation in which their basic human rights have been severely compromised. The hardships they had to face, emotionally as well as physically, are heart-wrenching. Godwin also touches on colonialism as a contributing factor to the current violence on whites: P. 153: "It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man. And the second worst was his departure. Colonialism lasted just long enough to destroy much of Africa's indigenous cultures and traditions, but not long enough to leave behind a durable replacement." P. 155:"When the first Europeans arrive in Africa, they bring their territorial imperative with them. And once the dust settles from the "Scramble for Africa", the continent finds itself sliced up into bizarre and arbitrary shapes. Kilimanjaro, for instance, is given by Queen Victoria as a birthday present to her cousin, the Kaiser, because she has two snow-capped African peaks, and he has none. Many of these new states lump together ancient antagonists, cut across cultural and economic hinterlands. Europeans take Africa by the scruff of its neck and shake the bejesus into it, knocking it clear of its cultural fulcrum by doing good things and bad on so many frons: religion, trade, infrastructure, health. Societies that are built on the mathematical fundamentals of women giving birth to twelve in order to bring two or three to maturity suddenly find themselves with five, seven, nine children and all the attendant cultural chaos. Europeans entice them to want stuff - soap, clothes, bicycles, radios, stoves; turn then into impoverished consumers; co-opt their chiefs, tax them and compel them to leave home, to labour for wages." Human rights and equality for all was one of the major ideals of Nelson Mandela. But his love for people became the main reason why he was shunted onto a sideline by the members of his party who craved a ride on the gravy train and pushed everything and anyone out of the way that apposed their greed. Modern Africa was never a haven for human rights, although it was suppose to be. If it was, there would not have been so many millions of Africans fleeing their own countries to particularly Europe and America as well as South Africa! So much so, that it is currently creating huge challenges for the host countries. The black-on-black violence is much worse in scope and numbers as well compared to the white genocide. So if you are interested in basic Human Rights and what it really should mean, you can read this book. If you want to read more about the African story, this is one true version of the events. And after you have read it, you will have to decided where you stand on the Human Rights issue, how selectively you are in your own application of it.  Should it only apply to groups you have sanctioned? But, just as a human-interest story, This book is a beautiful book written in eloquent prose. I am not so impressed with the choice of title though. It might allow an exotic touch to the story, it is an eye-catcher, but for me, does not apply really to the situation. The reason being that these atrocities are happening on a daily basis and have been doing so for centuries. It is not a once-off occurrence. Five stars for the guts it took to write this detailed version of an African love story gone wrong. In my opinion, it is the basic human right of everyone to tell his/her story. It is the only way a complete version of history can be recorded. It is another way of demonstrating greed in all its different disguises. This book made a valuable contribution. The most important message, to me personally, in this book, lies in the proof it provides that throughout human history, cruelty has not been limited to one creed or color. There simply are no saints in the saga of human existence. I wanted to read this book for months now. It was lying here waiting. I was expecting it to be a good counter-balance for "African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe by Doris Lessing. It was. What Lessing failed to acknowledge (was it deliberate omission perhaps of the horrendous atrocities?) in her book as a result of the revolt, fueled by communism (which she promoted in Zimbabwe in her earlier involvement in the country's politics), Godwin has added in clinical detail. It was needed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Spudsie

    This book will haunt you. It haunts me. I was in a hotel room in Chicago trying to get ready for an early morning conference session. I was watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC when Peter Godwin came on. I was not familiar with him, but listening to him talk about Zimbabwe intrigued me. Despite purloining 8 million vendor pens at the vendor hall the previous day, I could not quickly locate a pen and paper to write down the title of his book. Thanks goodness for technology! I grabbed my Blackberry and This book will haunt you. It haunts me. I was in a hotel room in Chicago trying to get ready for an early morning conference session. I was watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC when Peter Godwin came on. I was not familiar with him, but listening to him talk about Zimbabwe intrigued me. Despite purloining 8 million vendor pens at the vendor hall the previous day, I could not quickly locate a pen and paper to write down the title of his book. Thanks goodness for technology! I grabbed my Blackberry and sent myself an e-mail with the book title and author’s name. Once home I ordered the book and sat it on my “to read” pile for about a month. I started reading “Crocodile” mid week. I read a few pages and had to put it down. I just didn’t have the time to keep reading. Friday afternoon I picked it up again-- and promptly cancelled my plans for the evening. I could not bear to stop reading. Peter’s story (as well as his father’s story) has so many twists and turns I almost forgot I was reading non-fiction. I felt as though he pulled me into his life. His story made me laugh at times, say “aha!” at times, but mainly it made me weep. Some books make me tear-up—tears form in the corners of my eyes and usually fall down my face at some point, but it’s just a tear or two. Some books make me cry—mutiple tears falling simultaneously while my nose runs to the point I have to either put the book down and get a tissue, or (and please don’t tell anyone I do this!!) keep reading the book and use my sleeve. Very few books make we weep—cry to the point I have no choice but to set the book aside, find a box of tissues, and weep nearly uncontrollably. This book made we weep. Multiple times. I wept for the people of Zimbabwe and their struggles. I wept for the inhumanity of the leaders and “wovits.” I wept for the personal losses suffered by the Godwins. Sometimes I wept because I was simply overwhelmed by all of it. Though Godwin writes this book in a fairly detached manner, it evoked a very strong emotional reaction in me. I still can’t wrap my brain around “Crocodiles” because it is living in my heart.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    The author, Peter Godwin, grew up as a white Zimbabwean, just like Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Lets Go to the Dogs tonight. He brilliantly shares his experience living under Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's dicator since the 1970's. My problem, however, is how he portrays his parents, and their near-saintliness. They are/were clearly warm people with an impressive degree of moral courage. But he never addresses the fact that Zimbabwe -- formerly Rhodesia, was a European colony bef The author, Peter Godwin, grew up as a white Zimbabwean, just like Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Lets Go to the Dogs tonight. He brilliantly shares his experience living under Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's dicator since the 1970's. My problem, however, is how he portrays his parents, and their near-saintliness. They are/were clearly warm people with an impressive degree of moral courage. But he never addresses the fact that Zimbabwe -- formerly Rhodesia, was a European colony before Mugabe, and suffered accordingly under white rule. He never seems to question why there was so much opposition to the white settlers, who had the best farmland, and (his own parents included), black servants. While I thouroughly enjoyed Godwin's gorgeous writing, I was frequently frustrated with his reluctance to address the oppression of the blacks, which continues to haunt the country. Godwin is the better writer, but I preferred Fuller's book. Her Zimbabwe is just as frightening, and beautiful. But she never withdraws judgement throughout her book. Her approach lends greater credibility. Please note: I'm not arguing that Mugabe's monstrous behavior towards any of his subjects is justifiable. But Zimbabwean independence is a much more complex issue than Godwin acknowleges.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "Some of Prince Biyela's people, the Zulus, and the Vendas too, believe that a solar eclipse occurs when a crocodile eats the sun. This celestial crocodile, they say, briefly consumes our life-giving star as a warning that he is much displeased with the behavior of man below. It is the very worst of omens." The title of this memoir foreshadows the uproot of life for the Godwin family, during Zimbabwe's upheaval. Peter Godwin has written for many major publications like New York Times Magazine and "Some of Prince Biyela's people, the Zulus, and the Vendas too, believe that a solar eclipse occurs when a crocodile eats the sun. This celestial crocodile, they say, briefly consumes our life-giving star as a warning that he is much displeased with the behavior of man below. It is the very worst of omens." The title of this memoir foreshadows the uproot of life for the Godwin family, during Zimbabwe's upheaval. Peter Godwin has written for many major publications like New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. I don't know personally about his reporting, but I enjoyed his writing in this memoir. There are many books that emerged from the former Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, that I've personally had difficulty reading because of the tone. Godwin has a great blend of subjectivity and objectivity, even at those moments when it gets deeply personal for him. Land ownership was once something sacred in Zimbabwe. Farmers communally prepared the land and when the land became exhausted, they moved to the next patch. Buying land was foreign and akin to buying "the wind or the water or the trees." When the first white pioneer struck a deal with an African elder to get gold, the confusion began because the elder did not think he was giving up rights to the land. Even though whites made up only 1 percent of the population, they soon owned more than half of Zimbabwe's agricultural land. This problem formed the foundation for Zimbabwe's Civil War. Godwin's parents, white, African, immigrants, were caught in the middle of the storm that followed. Zimbabwe went from white rule to black rule under Prime Minister, Mugabe. Later, Mugabe's political greed and narcissism would take him on a spin of unfair elections and unfair treatment to farmers. Mugabe ignited the nationalists and "war vets" or "wovits" who wanted to take their country back by any means necessary. The destruction that followed is heartrending, and is unfortunately one of many tales of Africa's struggle after colonialism. Godwin's story of his father is one that reinforces empathy through each section, as the deepening of this relationship becomes a life lesson for both reader and writer. There is also something deeply universal that should resonate with any immigrant or exile, any survivor of war or victim of displacement; anyone who has experienced the loss of homeland and family, one who knows what it is to dream in native language and not hear it daily; anyone who has resolved that he or she will never fully feel at home anywhere, but may make home everywhere. When an African has lived through the loss of a country's values, the lens out of which to view sometimes becomes blurred: "Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems." Some fiction on Zimbabwe that I have also enjoyed are: Maraire's Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and Vera's Without a Name and Under the Tongue (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gillian Stokes

    I have just finished reading "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" and am assuaging the tears with a good glass of Johnny Black and a CD of my favourite ballet classics ....guaranteed to calm me down. There are so many reasons why I cried. I cried for times past and in fear of times to come. I cried because of the similarities. I come from a pan African family, my brothers born in Zim, me in Malawi and my sister in Zambia ( Daddy was a soldier and a traveling man) I cried when you described your fathe I have just finished reading "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" and am assuaging the tears with a good glass of Johnny Black and a CD of my favourite ballet classics ....guaranteed to calm me down. There are so many reasons why I cried. I cried for times past and in fear of times to come. I cried because of the similarities. I come from a pan African family, my brothers born in Zim, me in Malawi and my sister in Zambia ( Daddy was a soldier and a traveling man) I cried when you described your father's cremation. My brother Rod who was in the BSAP during the last years of the civil war died in Gaborone in 2000. He was cremated at the Hindu crematorium because it was the only operational one in Gabs then. He died ostensibly from complications from a botched appendicectomy but when I spoke to his surgeon a week after his death his words to me were "every time we took your brother to theatre to clean him , we removed a little more shrapnel, you might well say the war killed him but only 20 years later . I cried too for my Africa and the fact that as a 3rd / 4th generation "African" I am often both subtly and less subtly told in a myriad of ways daily that this continent is not my home and that I must go home ... to a land that is so foreign to me that the very thought scares me beyond belief.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elie

    Godwin tries too hard to tacitly excuse himself and other whites who stayed on in Zimbabwe after majority rule. He glosses over fighting on the wrong side of Zimbabwe's war for independence and never properly questions his privileged upbringing and the British status quo. Most of the examples he employs to gain our sympathy involve white farmers loosing their land and family photographs; the stories that include native Africans often end with them stealing something or running away. For someone Godwin tries too hard to tacitly excuse himself and other whites who stayed on in Zimbabwe after majority rule. He glosses over fighting on the wrong side of Zimbabwe's war for independence and never properly questions his privileged upbringing and the British status quo. Most of the examples he employs to gain our sympathy involve white farmers loosing their land and family photographs; the stories that include native Africans often end with them stealing something or running away. For someone who attempts to represent Africa to a western audience, this seems rather bad form. Still, Godwin does a good job of chronicling Zimbabwe's demise under the increasingly autocratic rule of Robert Mugabe and the manifold challenges that everyday Zimbabweans face to survive. Godwin even goes into detail about the repression and violence that Mugabe's regime uses to stay in power, but he's subtle -- too subtle -- about his criticism of it. Even his stories about the opposition usually include the appearances of white Zimbaweans. 'When a Crocodile East the Sun' is worth reading for the inside view it offers us of a nation's collapse, but not for the author's politics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    This is a bittersweet recount of the author childhood to adulthood as a Brit whose parents also Brit's in Zimbabwe. It detailed all the complexities of the black-and-white relationship, sometime was harmonious, at other time strained with a lots of love-hate interactions, laced with conflict and bloody violence. While the white population, composed of mostly farmers were subjected to mob injustice for which I abhor , but I can understand , if not sympathize to the indignation of the natives whose This is a bittersweet recount of the author childhood to adulthood as a Brit whose parents also Brit's in Zimbabwe. It detailed all the complexities of the black-and-white relationship, sometime was harmonious, at other time strained with a lots of love-hate interactions, laced with conflict and bloody violence. While the white population, composed of mostly farmers were subjected to mob injustice for which I abhor , but I can understand , if not sympathize to the indignation of the natives whose ancestor land was occupied by the Brit's , no matter what benefit brought to their country by the white. No amount of money can be used to exchange to any country , regardless of any and all considerations . Just because of the native being ignorant of science, including the science of governing, they must not be stripped of land and other natural resources by the more technological advanced Whites together with their human right as noisily propounded ( but ignored in reality) by the U S 's Declaration of Independence , the Bill Of Right and the Constitution , lofty but again fairy empty in reality. Talk about hot air! However I have a big simpathy for the author.He found himself in a sorrowful predicament of damn if you do and damn if you don't, a father in his old age plagued with constant pain, a deceased sister whose grave was disturbed before he settled it.They were surrounded with hostile native who frequently disturbed his family I admire his stoicism, his loving disposition , his calmness in the face of hostility .I also admire his parents similar characteristic , the characteristic that help them to survive all of the turmoil in their adopted country . Overall a good experience.Hightly recommended .! One hundred stars !

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I was debating on whether to read this book, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, or the author's book on his childhood growing up in Rhodesia Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africafirst. This one focuses upon his father's life in Zimbabwe, and how he ended up there. I believe I made the wrong choice. It took me a very long time to care for the family. The first third focuses upon political turmoil and history of Rhodesia and how it became Zimbabwe. Every chapter is dated. The first being J I was debating on whether to read this book, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, or the author's book on his childhood growing up in Rhodesia Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africafirst. This one focuses upon his father's life in Zimbabwe, and how he ended up there. I believe I made the wrong choice. It took me a very long time to care for the family. The first third focuses upon political turmoil and history of Rhodesia and how it became Zimbabwe. Every chapter is dated. The first being July 1996 and the last February 2004. The author grew up in Rhodesia. It is evident that he feels himself to be both "African" as well as an outsider. When he writes the book he is living in NYC and is a well paid and recognized journalist writing for magazines such as National Geographic. The book follows the author's visits to his homeland and specifically his elderly parents. His mother is a doctor and his father a farmer. It follows the events that were occurring in Zimbabwe on the given dates. The country's and the family's downward spiral are one and the same. It is devastating to watch what Robert Mugabe has done to this country. By the end I was in tears. When I read a book about the political events of a country I want to know how these events play out in people's lives. This is exactly what you are given in this book.I want to feel empathy for the people. By the end I certainly did, but it took a good 100 pages for this to begin. There is little or no humor in the book. I found it extremely depressing. OK, this is the truth of what Mugabe has done to this land, but more family events that were amusing could have been thrown in. In addition, I felt that the author added gruesome details scarcely relevant to the story. He need not have shown us, step by horrible step, how Jews met their death at Treblinka. Neither did I find the writing particularly outstanding, just ordinary. Ironically, what has united the blacks and whites in Zimbabwe is a shared hatred of Mugabe..... Along with this book one could read Alexandra Fuller's Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood. These two are less politically explicit and cover events further back in time. If you are interested more in Mugabe's rule, choose "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" instead. The other two have a completely different tone. I could not help but smile as I read them. Both authors have shown us their family's secrets and how their lives as whites in Africa were shaped by political events.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    4.5 stars. Godwin does an excellent job of combining the personal and political in this gripping memoir. He writes about caring for his aging parents who live in Zimbabwe, mostly long distance, as their country collapses around them. On his visits, even a trip to the grocery store becomes treacherous. He writes about learning that his father is Polish and Jewish, not English as he was always told - and discovers that most of his father's family died in the Holocaust. He also vividly describes th 4.5 stars. Godwin does an excellent job of combining the personal and political in this gripping memoir. He writes about caring for his aging parents who live in Zimbabwe, mostly long distance, as their country collapses around them. On his visits, even a trip to the grocery store becomes treacherous. He writes about learning that his father is Polish and Jewish, not English as he was always told - and discovers that most of his father's family died in the Holocaust. He also vividly describes the destruction wrought by Mugabe's corrupt regime. And Godwin does all this so skillfully and naturally.

  11. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A very powerful and haunting and heartbreaking memoir, a story both about the collapse of Zimbabwe into dictatorship and chaos since the late 1990s and about identity and belonging. Godwin writes as a white African, as a boy born in the old Rhodesia and raised during the Rhodesian Bush War--- what's now the Chimurenga War, the War of Liberation, in the new Zimbabwe. Godwin served briefly in the Rhodesian security forces before going off to Cambridge and returning to southern Africa first as a bar A very powerful and haunting and heartbreaking memoir, a story both about the collapse of Zimbabwe into dictatorship and chaos since the late 1990s and about identity and belonging. Godwin writes as a white African, as a boy born in the old Rhodesia and raised during the Rhodesian Bush War--- what's now the Chimurenga War, the War of Liberation, in the new Zimbabwe. Godwin served briefly in the Rhodesian security forces before going off to Cambridge and returning to southern Africa first as a barrister and then as a journalist. He writes about how the optimism of the first decade of post-independence soured in the 1990s as the Mugabe regime degenerated into a violent kleptocracy and HIV ravaged the population, reducing African life expectancy in Zimbabwe from 57 in 1980 to 34 by the beginning of the 21st century. Godwin discovers there as his much-admired father slips into old age and a final illness that George Godwin, safari-suited British engineer, was by birth a Polish Jew named Kasimir Goldfarb, a veteran of the wartime Free Polish forces, a man whose family died at Treblinka. The book counterpoints Godwin's discovery of his father's childhood with the destruction of white life in Zimbabwe, with the Mugabe dictatorship's chaotic and self-destructive program of inciting mobs to seize and partition white-owned farms. To be white in Zimbabwe in 2003, Godwin sees, is like being Jewish in Poland after the German occupation--- a life lived on suffrance. Godwin writes about the end of a world--- not just white Rhodesia, but of the hopes raised at independence. "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" ends with Godwin overseeing his late father's cremation, realising that he's an African no longer welcome in Africa. This is an account I'll keep in my own memory for a long time--- tragic, spare, thoughtful, unutterably sad. Read it. Read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Godwin's "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" is not only compelling and well-written, but more timely than ever. A memoir of his adult life after having left Zimbabwe, the place of his birth (he is a journalist for National Geographic and a slew of other top-notch publications), Godwin painfully portrays the experience of white Africans in Zimbabwe, and his own family's history in their journey to Africa. It gives an insider's view of Mugabe's reign of terror, and the utter chaos that has enveloped Godwin's "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" is not only compelling and well-written, but more timely than ever. A memoir of his adult life after having left Zimbabwe, the place of his birth (he is a journalist for National Geographic and a slew of other top-notch publications), Godwin painfully portrays the experience of white Africans in Zimbabwe, and his own family's history in their journey to Africa. It gives an insider's view of Mugabe's reign of terror, and the utter chaos that has enveloped the country. Perhaps the most compelling part of the story is that of his parents, elderly in the late 90s and early 2000s. Anyone who has cared for an aging loved one, and who feels the guilt of the child or grandchild who is no longer at home to care for them, is struck by this emotional theme in the story. Add to this feeling the fact that his aging parents are in a conflict torn country with few resources, wild inflation, and rampant crime and intimidation, and you get a sense of the emotional and moral dilemma Godwin goes through. His parents are rooted in their home country and won't leave, but their children cannot viably stay; indeed, one of Godwin's siblings is a casualty of random violence during the Civil War. Godwin and his remaining sister act as international voices on the crisis, she on the radio, he in print. This is a heartbreaking and riveting book, which can be paired daily with the newspaper to show how so little has changed in Zimbabwe (the book ends in 2004), and how Mugabe's reign of terror last until this day.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    In the early nineties I spent some time in Zimbabwe, and I have always wanted to go back. Although there were hints of instability, mostly having to do with currency exchange, the people were well fed, well educated, and the country was beautiful. I have been looking for an explanation, a reason for the death of that Zimbabwe. The dire news of cholera and economic collapse, the continued spread of political evil...I picked this book up because it covers the late nineties and early part of this m In the early nineties I spent some time in Zimbabwe, and I have always wanted to go back. Although there were hints of instability, mostly having to do with currency exchange, the people were well fed, well educated, and the country was beautiful. I have been looking for an explanation, a reason for the death of that Zimbabwe. The dire news of cholera and economic collapse, the continued spread of political evil...I picked this book up because it covers the late nineties and early part of this millennium. Peter Godwin tells a complex story about his family, set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's ruin, and I truly began to understand how this horrible thing could have happened. Even though I think this is a well written, poignant and fascinating book, a small part of me wanted to read or find a book that wasn't written by a "when-we" (those are the white farmers...called that because they start conversations, "When we had..." I don't know if there is more to the story, or another perspective, but there might be. This book made me mourn again the fact that the Zimbabwe where I had some of the best experiences of my life, will never really exist again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    After reading this book, I am actually unsure of where I stand on the issue of land redistribution. I recognize the value white farmers added to Zimbabwe's economy, but on the other hand I am suspicious of, you know, colonialism. As I was reading, I keep thinking, where's this guy's punchline? Has this guy really written a book completely bashing land redistribution even in the face of the fact that 70% of arable land in Zimbabwe was owned by whites who made up less than 1% of the population?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    I was totally blown away and so moved by the book. It is so well worth reading!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    This is my type of book - an entertaining book in which I learn so much about places that I would like to know more about. This memoir about the author's home in Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwae. The majority of the story takes place during the 1990's and 2000's during Robert Mugabe's presidency - which still continues today. Political fraud, beatings, slavery, killings, etc. were rampant, and we see how much damage was done to a once-thriving economy. Many white Africans lived on commercial far This is my type of book - an entertaining book in which I learn so much about places that I would like to know more about. This memoir about the author's home in Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwae. The majority of the story takes place during the 1990's and 2000's during Robert Mugabe's presidency - which still continues today. Political fraud, beatings, slavery, killings, etc. were rampant, and we see how much damage was done to a once-thriving economy. Many white Africans lived on commercial farmland that was taken over by "war vets" (called wovits). As Mugabe rose to power, violence and thievery became the norm. Godwin's parents chose to stay in their adopted homeland and the story was told through a series of his visits back to visit them. Not only does Crocodile Eats the Sun provide the reader with a starting off point to begin to understand Zimbabwae's tumultuous past, but we also learn about the ex-pats who chose to live and work in parts of Africa - mostly war veterans after WWII. The writing was so dramatically beautiful in many parts. For example: "In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That's what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life's alibi in the face of death." Also, "Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea." Beautiful writing - such tragedy, but the author was able to keep me smiling through the tears with comical anecdotes. I highly recommend this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    My dad brought this back from SA for me, and it was funny because I'd just finished reading Mukiwa by the same author. Mukiwa is about Peter Godwin's childhood in Zimbabwe, and this book covers the death of his father there in the period from the late 90's to 2006. Peter Godwin is a journalist and it shows in how the book is written. I choose not to hold it against him. Still, for some reason I couldn't read this book without my eyes tearing up. Seriously, I read almost the entire book trying to My dad brought this back from SA for me, and it was funny because I'd just finished reading Mukiwa by the same author. Mukiwa is about Peter Godwin's childhood in Zimbabwe, and this book covers the death of his father there in the period from the late 90's to 2006. Peter Godwin is a journalist and it shows in how the book is written. I choose not to hold it against him. Still, for some reason I couldn't read this book without my eyes tearing up. Seriously, I read almost the entire book trying to blink back tears. Anyone one who wants to understand what's happening in Zimbabwe now or is interested in the strange place some white Africans find themselves should read this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    Extremely well-written story about family, identity, and what we owe each other, set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe and Mugabe's dictatorship.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    This book continues 10 years later where Mukiwa finished. It is a microcosm historical reference to the effects of what good white Zimbabweans wanted for their nation among all persons and yet as the story unfolds the scenes recalled, written, and accounted for show nothing but retribution by the Mugabe political machine against the white citizens who provided medicine, farming techniques, and educational institutions. A fully disclosed interview by Peter Godwin’s sister Georgina provides an add This book continues 10 years later where Mukiwa finished. It is a microcosm historical reference to the effects of what good white Zimbabweans wanted for their nation among all persons and yet as the story unfolds the scenes recalled, written, and accounted for show nothing but retribution by the Mugabe political machine against the white citizens who provided medicine, farming techniques, and educational institutions. A fully disclosed interview by Peter Godwin’s sister Georgina provides an additional insight to the devastating effects forced upon a people (black and white) when full power corrupts completely. The active voice in this memoir changes periodically from pride of family in a nostalgic form to a realistic and darkened sadness of what occurred in Zimbabwe following the years after the Civil War. Peter Godwin comes clean (in a manner of speaking) with familial issues of importance and discovery in a shocking sense. The reader only gets questionable hints in Mukiwa; however, the very personal matter becomes fully disclosed in this work. The author doesn’t really speak of his personal intimacies in an opened forum but the history that he reported upon within this memoir is telling of the political torment that Mugabe created for Zimbabwe. President Mugabe had a chance to make Zimbabwe a country of joining people together and failed miserably in my opinion. He gave the wovits the commercial farms owned by the white citizens and had his own political henchmen with Chimurenga political names such as “Hitler Huntzvi” or “Stalin Mau Mau.” This provided a window to what the poor black and all white community had to confront going forward. Whatever gains were made became lost very early on following the Civil War and the renaming of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. Peter’s Father, George Godwin never referenced his military service to his family on any form of detail until the near end of his life. Then, with a brief reference on page 142 as an afterthought Peter informs the reader that his Father’s Polish Regiment under the 1st Polish Armored Division led by General Stanislaw Maczek (which was assigned under the 1st Canadian Army) had been a part of the liberation of Ghent. The liberation of Ghent on 6 September 1944 would allow the 4th Canadian Armored Division to free wheel it to my own Father’s hometown where they would rescue the city from the grips of the Nazi henchmen some 8 days later on 14 September 1944. George considered himself to be a Jewish Pole as opposed to a Polish Jew in much the same way that Bernard Fall author Hell In A Very Small Place would consider himself to be French in his adopted country following his own family’s immigration to France in 1938 from Austria. In some form it was rather shocking to read of the disclosure of his Father’s well-kept secret over the years. George Godwin’s life was marked by what he did for his country of Zimbabwe and that of his family; not by his war record which by all accounts was in itself very distinguished. Later, George would comment to Peter that being white in Zimbabwe was like being Jewish in Poland in 1939 – an endangered minority and the target of ethnic cleansing. George’s sister and mother were killed in Treblinka concentration camp while George was a boy stuck in England studying when the war broke out. His father survives and later remarries, but he never sees him again when his Dad passes away in Poland after George has moved to Africa with his Doctor wife. There is a very effective section on this book that tackles the problems of Historical Revisionism which I found to be compelling. Zimbabwe was once the second largest grower of Virginia Tobacco, it is apparent that the country is on the mend toward correcting this failure from President Mugabe. The opening pages to this book is a personal endearment to his own life thus far and the photos of his children and that of his niece in one inset photo provides an internal glimpse of hope for the future. The book ends as it began and the historical account is as important as any to history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I read Godwin’s earlier memoir 10 years ago so naturally wanted to read this one, though I wondered what a man younger than I by a decade or more could have to write two memoirs about. The answer is “plenty”. This one is focuses on the period between 1996 and 2004 when Robert Mugabe is encouraging the “wovits” (supposedly vets of the civil war but mostly thugs and opportunists) to confiscate land from white settlers. Mugabe seems to want to get rid of whites in Zimbabwe and to make what was a co I read Godwin’s earlier memoir 10 years ago so naturally wanted to read this one, though I wondered what a man younger than I by a decade or more could have to write two memoirs about. The answer is “plenty”. This one is focuses on the period between 1996 and 2004 when Robert Mugabe is encouraging the “wovits” (supposedly vets of the civil war but mostly thugs and opportunists) to confiscate land from white settlers. Mugabe seems to want to get rid of whites in Zimbabwe and to make what was a country genuinely successful at developing a multi-racial society into an all black country; ruining the country's economy in the process. Production is down, the economy is shrinking, inflation is off the wall. Not only whites but middle class blacks are immigrating in droves. Godwin, a journalist, has lived in the UK and the US for years but loves his country and has made a specialty of getting jobs reporting from there. His parents remained there as did his sister, a TV journalist. What's compelling about this memoir, though, is the author's skill at simultaneously reporting on the beauty and promise and on the horrible political present of a part of the world most of us know little about and think of only as a place of abject poverty and ugliness. Godwin's love of Zimbabwe and its people, black and white, is infectious. But he's very talented also at weaving Zimbabwe's story in with that his own family. His older sister, killed by terrorists whose grave is vandalized. His physician mother who’s given and given again to the people of Zimbabwe. His younger sister whose journalism gets her banned to North London where she broadcasts back to Zimbabwe. Godwin learns during the time frame of the book that his tight-lipped British father is actually a Polish Jew and holocaust survivor trapped in Britain in 1939 where he went on a course to learn English. His mother and sister ended their lives in Treblinka. His father was never allowed to learn Poland. Godwin’s telling of his father's story would seem totally irrelevant to present day Africa, as would Goodwin’s own experience of volunteering his time in the wake of 9/11 (his own neighborhood), but that's the beauty of a good memoirist who can make anything that happens to him "relevant”. In the end he feel compelled to compare his own need to leave Africa with his father’s to leave Poland: “Like Poland was to him, Africa is for me: a place in which I can never truly belong, a dangerous place that will, if I allow it to, reach into my life and hurt my family. A white in Africa is like a Jew anywhere—on sufferance, watching wearily, waiting for the next great tidal swell of hostility.” I can’t recommend this book enough.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dixie Diamond

    This was both very interesting and rather tiresome. It's a memoir, not a history book, so it's to be expected that it emphasizes the writer's perspective and feelings more than the facts of what was going on. Godwin's writing style is sensitive but mercifully not prone to histrionics. Nevertheless--and I realize the irony of this being written by a white American--it is hard to feel too sympathetic towards white Zimbabwean colonists and what sounds like an insular, patronizing, big-fish-in-a-small This was both very interesting and rather tiresome. It's a memoir, not a history book, so it's to be expected that it emphasizes the writer's perspective and feelings more than the facts of what was going on. Godwin's writing style is sensitive but mercifully not prone to histrionics. Nevertheless--and I realize the irony of this being written by a white American--it is hard to feel too sympathetic towards white Zimbabwean colonists and what sounds like an insular, patronizing, big-fish-in-a-small-pond culture of entitlement. The white farmers we meet in the book all seem to have large landholdings, pools, maids, gardeners, legions of dependent farm workers, and spiny sisal hedges to serve as " . . . barrier[s:] against the huddled masses outside, reinforcing it until they have judged it impregnable . . ." Godwin's parents sound like out-of-touch small-town aristocracy; his mother still refers to Ethiopians as "Abyssinians" and has never seen a pull-tab Coke can. Whites are routinely offered kindnesses above-and-beyond by poorer blacks, and Godwin acknowledges these but never convincingly grasps them as the product of colonialism. Everything I can find claims that whites were about 1% of the population but owned 70% of the land. And they didn't see a revolt coming? Seriously? Godwin also discovers partway into the book that his father was actually a Polish Jew who lost his mother and sister to the Nazis, instead of a Briton, and, although he doesn't say so explicitly, seems anxious to parallel this sad family history with the next generation's expulsion from Zimbabwe. It doesn't quite work, though, since Jews in Europe weren't a tiny, recently-arrived, ruling caste with a death grip on the national economy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    This is the author's memoir of growing up and returning to his home country of Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia when he was growing up). His family survived the civil war in 1980's and remained there. He left to go to London & New York for work. He would return periodically (not often enough, though) to visit his aging parents and for work assignments. The author says that Zimbabwe has a "sweet and sour effect on me". Sweet because Zimbabwe is his home and his remembrances of sweet memories growing up. Sou This is the author's memoir of growing up and returning to his home country of Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia when he was growing up). His family survived the civil war in 1980's and remained there. He left to go to London & New York for work. He would return periodically (not often enough, though) to visit his aging parents and for work assignments. The author says that Zimbabwe has a "sweet and sour effect on me". Sweet because Zimbabwe is his home and his remembrances of sweet memories growing up. Sour because the country is now dangerous and much poorer. The title of the book comes from a Zula saying meaning that the gods are displeased with the behavior of man below; it's the worst of omens. Robert Mugabe is president of Zimbabwe and has become a tyrant. The economy suffers deeply and there is violence. White farmers are displaced from their farms or meet death. Yet, his parents want to remain in Zimbabwe - it's their home. As the country becomes more depressed and isolated, his parents, particularly his father, becomes more fragile. His father does finally die. His last promise to his father is that he is to be cremated. But, how can he do this without bribery or going to the blackmarket; there's little fuel for the cremation process. I wished the author would have continued with his story. How is his mother coping living alone in Africa?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Greer Noble

    Gives one a very good idea of how traumatic and depressing it was for Peter's family and families like Peter's. How hopeless, despairing and often frightening the situation was and still is. How the world stands by does nothing. A very human story, a story of destiny, the struggles and courage of those brave souls in the face of utter despair and hopelessness. Well portrayed and an easy read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I found this book very interesting. Godwin and his family aren’t perfect, but they are certainly sympathetic. The memoir is well written, and I learned a great deal about Zimbabwe. A major part of the book chronicles the plight of the white, middle-class, elite in Zimbabwe. Godwin’s sympathies are fully in their camp when Mugabe targets their land for redistribution. Godwin makes a good case that what happened to white, land-owners was not only bad for them but bad for Zimbabwe. The land redistri I found this book very interesting. Godwin and his family aren’t perfect, but they are certainly sympathetic. The memoir is well written, and I learned a great deal about Zimbabwe. A major part of the book chronicles the plight of the white, middle-class, elite in Zimbabwe. Godwin’s sympathies are fully in their camp when Mugabe targets their land for redistribution. Godwin makes a good case that what happened to white, land-owners was not only bad for them but bad for Zimbabwe. The land redistribution, based on political expediency, caused famine, social unrest and economic collapse in Zimbabwe. The book is more interesting to me when I really try to figure Godwin out. Godwin fought to preserve minority, white rule during Zimbabwe’s civil war. In what little he says, he tries to shift the blame for the decision to his father. I assume that he talks about his conscription in his previous book, but he writes this entire book about his African experience and never talks about the elephant in the room, that is his white privilege and how much he and his family personally benefited from colonialism. At one point he relays in great detail a prostitute calling him racist because he declines her services. He set himself up to be the aggrieved party in that story. He wants to convince me that he isn’t a racist, but I’m not 100% sure he’s convinced himself. Godwin also makes comparisons that are just strange. For example, he writes, “a white in Africa is like a Jew everywhere--on sufferance, watching warily, waiting for the next tidal swell of hostility.” He doesn’t seem to understand the key difference being that whites are easily targeted based on the fact that everything they had in Zimbabwe was gotten because the system was created by them and rigged for their benefit. To make this analogy work, there has to be the underpinning of antisemitism. The idea has to be that Jews have brought hatred on themselves. Another confused Jewish comparison is one in which he compares his (view spoiler)[father hiding his Jewsih heritage for over 50 years to himself living off continent. He and his father’s experiences are just not equatable on any level. His father hid that he was a Jew out of fear based on very real experience. Godwin never actually turned his back on Africa. I get that he felt guilty for not being there for his parents, but the comparison is quite melodramatic and minimizes his father’s experience. (hide spoiler)] The comparison that is most troubling to me is when he compares Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of black Africans. These two situations are vastly different. The modern state of Israel was born because the world turned their backs as six million Jews were murdered. South Africa exists because of greed and racism. Intellectuals compare the two to advance antisemitism which is really troubling to me. I give this book 4 stars, not because Peter Godwin is perfect, but because I was interested from start to finish. I wanted to know what was going to happen to his parents. I was intrigued by his almost constant inner turmoil, and I learned a lot about Zimbabwe.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adam Curtis

    This is an excellent book, but it was quite humbling to read. ​The author, Peter Godwin, is an accomplished journalist who knows how to keep a reader's interest as he covers a very personal version of recent history in his native country of Zimbabwe. The humbling part for me was to realize just how little I know about Zimbabwe​​. The ​events that Godwin recounts begin in 1996 and go through 2004​, all very recent history​. ​And yet I knew nothing about ​the dramatic descent of this economically This is an excellent book, but it was quite humbling to read. ​The author, Peter Godwin, is an accomplished journalist who knows how to keep a reader's interest as he covers a very personal version of recent history in his native country of Zimbabwe. The humbling part for me was to realize just how little I know about Zimbabwe​​. The ​events that Godwin recounts begin in 1996 and go through 2004​, all very recent history​. ​And yet I knew nothing about ​the dramatic descent of this economically successful, post-revolutionary country into almost total anarchy. Such history can be a bit antiseptic if read through newspaper headlines, but Godwin brings it to life as he details the impact of the chaos on his aging parents who are committed to their adopted country. In the midst of this very real human drama, the author adds compelling stories that highlight race and national identity issues, and caps it off with a gripping narrative about his own family identity crisis.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    A complete collision of incredible, gut-wrenching, heart-heavy movements and emotions in this little book. Written as a memoir of a journalist who grew up white in Zimbabwe... seeing his country, economy, culture, family and friends disintegrate at the hands of evil, selfish power. If you want an intimate account of how wrong government can get, read this. If you are hungry for an account of the ex-pat life... driven to make the world better, read this. If you are interested in family saga and h A complete collision of incredible, gut-wrenching, heart-heavy movements and emotions in this little book. Written as a memoir of a journalist who grew up white in Zimbabwe... seeing his country, economy, culture, family and friends disintegrate at the hands of evil, selfish power. If you want an intimate account of how wrong government can get, read this. If you are hungry for an account of the ex-pat life... driven to make the world better, read this. If you are interested in family saga and hidden histories (aka. Nazi Poland), read this. If you are a child watching your parents age painfully, read this. Writing is refreshing and real with emotion. LOVED IT!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Zimbabwe- I found this book very interesting. Honestly, I feel ashamed for saying this but I had no idea about the details of the land reform and the instability of the residents after Mugabe began ruling. Peter's account is about the visits he made to his parents while he was living in the US. I read this book very quickly because the Author did a great job in being detailed enough without going overboard into details that bogged it down. It's so hard to imagine what life is (was) like for the Zimbabwe- I found this book very interesting. Honestly, I feel ashamed for saying this but I had no idea about the details of the land reform and the instability of the residents after Mugabe began ruling. Peter's account is about the visits he made to his parents while he was living in the US. I read this book very quickly because the Author did a great job in being detailed enough without going overboard into details that bogged it down. It's so hard to imagine what life is (was) like for the people in Zimbabwe.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Funk

    I really liked this memoir....maybe 'enjoy' is not quite the right word for a description of a brutally difficult time, the setting being Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabi's reign of terror, as the country disintegrates under his rule. The story is an interesting one as the author discovers secrets about his family, and as he cares for his parents from another continent, while respecting their choice to stay. Well done.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Dale

    This is author Peter Godwin's second memoir concerning his time in Zimbabwe. Although, unlike his recounting in Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, of his time growing up in the former Rhodesia, this book is about his coming home as an adult to grapple with the engineered decline of Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, and simultaneously, major family revelations that arise as his aging father becomes ill. The narrative of the farm invasions and the brutal repression of the political opposition leading up to This is author Peter Godwin's second memoir concerning his time in Zimbabwe. Although, unlike his recounting in Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, of his time growing up in the former Rhodesia, this book is about his coming home as an adult to grapple with the engineered decline of Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, and simultaneously, major family revelations that arise as his aging father becomes ill. The narrative of the farm invasions and the brutal repression of the political opposition leading up to the 2000 elections is just what you might expect. Sad and shameful behavior by a party dedicated to holding on to power, at whatever price, up to and including the deaths of its opponents. I suppose I had heard over the years about how reprehensible the behavior of parts of the ZANU-PF party apparatus was, but the bizarrely personal nature of the attacks, with different groups of "war vets" dispatched to seize and occupy particular white farmers' land, first this elderly couple and then that family, one by one, was something I hadn't fully grasped before. I think it is hard for me to grasp how a group of young men could camp outside an old couple's house night after night, threatening murder, killing their dogs and horses, and driving many of those who did escape to despair. What was especially terrible was the way in which the farm invaders tended to use whatever personal relationships the farmers had with the surrounding community against them - for example, by goading or threatening loyal personal staff into initiating false claims of labor abuse or wage theft against their employers, who were sometimes people the worker had known their entire life - or even been adopted out of orphanhood by. On a larger scale, the fact that so many black farmworkers were driven away from their homes and into utter penury for their association with white farmers or the opposition party is really the most disgusting aspect of the whole affair, revealing that the procedure had much less to do with land reform per se than with rewarding sycophancy and punishing independent thought. The terrible economic consequences of these actions begin to seem almost secondary in the face of the utter moral bankruptcy of the political leadership that rises to the foreground in Godwin's accounts of this tense situation. That said, it is still shocking how quickly the economy deteriorates in only a few years, and sad to think how even today, after a brief respite under the coalition government, things are pretty much back to where they started - a country utterly impoverished, worse off by far than it was in 1980. And for what? While the book cannot answer that, it is actually about much more than just political strife. It is in some ways a coming of age story, where the prodigal son, having established a new family of his own in a foothold abroad, comes back to the country of his birth to care for his ailing father, and in the process learns a great deal about himself and his own origins. I won't delve too deeply into the revelation of his father's Polish Jewish origins, but the tale of his father's family's history is well told, and adds a fascinating aspect to the Godwin family's origins in Africa. The idea of a new start, of an escape from old hatreds and prejudices, is not a new one, or unique to them, but its juxtaposition against the accepted injustice of their new home under the Smith regime, and the later fact that after independence the family and many like them had begun to be persecuted and marked out for punishment by the new order solely because of their European origins, is both perplexing and disheartening. Perplexing, because you want to find a clear chain of logic to explain all of this, this complex set of events, purposeful and not, societal and individual, moral and immoral, and in the end you realize there probably isn't any way to untangle it all. It has all happened before and it will all happen again, and in fact it is still happening now. Most people in stories like these have little control over the broad arc of the societies in which they live, and are simply doing their best to take care of those they care about with what they have. The heaviness of it all honestly leaves you a bit unsure of what to say in response. But I am glad for Godwin's telling of it. The bright note in an otherwise sometimes sad book, is that through all this the Godwin family continues to grow and learn about each other, whether in person in Harare, by shortwave radio from London or over the phone from New York, and that ability to look cruelty and hardship directly in the eye and say, it's still worth it, is what makes this book if not inspiring, at least hopeful. It has the brutally honest, bittersweet taste of so much African literature of the period, something that can be shocking at first but which I've come to appreciate, and even look up to. Highly recommended to fans of African literature, memoir and history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    I always hesitate to give five stars but for me, this is better than 4.5. I love stories set in Africa and this memoir does Africa so well. Touching while educational.

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