Yvonne Vera is an artist - a painter with words. The images she conjures, her amazing gifts to the reader, that grace the pages of this incredible novel, come straight from her soul - which is obviously filled with a deep love and compassion for her homeland, Zimbabwe, and its people. In these few pages (less than 200), she manages, through the related experiences, thoughts and emotions of her four main characters, to enlighten the world about the joyous/painful rebirth of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, and to comment with cutting insight on forces as universal to all of humanity as love, hate, peace, war, kindness, unspeakable cruelty, and selfless, unconditional devotion.
She does all of this by utlizing language that is some of the most poetic and beautiful I have ever been blessed to read - her prose is by turns stark and loving, sheltering and illuminating, protective of what is fragile and precious, and unflinchingly revelatory about what is shameful and despicable. Her writing style varies so subtly as the story demands that it sometimes shifts imperceptably between long, graceful, sweeping word-strokes and choppy thought-bursts that could be described as literary pointillism. With some of the incomprehensible violence that occurs in this story, the beauty of Vera's writing is even more of a blessing - without, it would be a great temptation to turn away. That being said, there are also examples within of some of the most wonderful depths of the human spirit.
On the first level a story about the effect of the struggle for (and after) Independence on four people - two women, sisters; and two men, one compassionate and one a killing machine - the novel expands in depth to address multiple layers of human emotion and experience. In just one example, Vera's work here delves deeply and inspiringly into the types and purposes of memory - its coexisiting roles that aid us in understanding, protecting us, connecting us with our past and our environment, and healing us.
A word of warning, to those who might be tempted to mentally shelve this wondrous novel in `African fiction' - to do so will do a horrible disservice, not only to this author and her work, but to yourself. This is a novel that can - and should - be experienced by sensitive readers regardless of their ethnic or national background. It speaks to the universality of the human soul - I cannot recommend it highly enough.