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When A Crocodile Eats the Sun Paperback – 2 Nov 2007


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When A Crocodile Eats the Sun + Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa + The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (2 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330448188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330448185
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Godwin is the award winning author of The Fear, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, and Mukiwa, all published by Picador. He writes for various publications including the New York Times magazine, National Geographic and Vanity Fair. He lives in Manhattan.

Product Description

Review

'A powerful, emotional and provoking travel book that should be read by everyone heading to Southern Africa' -- Guardian Unlimited Books of the Year

'A powerful, emotional and provoking travel book that should be read by everyone.' -- Guardian Unlimited Books of the Year

'An astonishingly powerful, moving and well-written book...a story that has to be read.'
-- The Tablet

'Heartbreaking...a family secret, history, autobiography and travelogue' -- The Times

'Heartfelt,absorbing and profoundly moving'
-- Sunday Times, Culture

'It's a well-told book, mingling as it does the personal with the wider political scene'
-- Seven Sunday Telegraph

'Peter Godwin's affectionate portrait of his parents...and detailed account of the farm invasions' -- Daily Telegraph

'This is both a moving family memoir and a sobering account...of the planet's nastiest dictatorships'
-- Mail on Sunday

From the Inside Flap

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun is a story of the disintegration of a

family, set against the collapse of a country. Peter Godwin is living

in Manhattan when he returns to Zimbabwe, his birthplace, having

received the news that his father is dying. He finds the former

breadbasket of a continent entering a vortex of violent chaos

and famine, prey to goon squads, presided over by a paranoid

kleptocracy. But his parents, who emigrated from England after

the Second World War, refuse to leave their home.

Against this backdrop, Godwin discovers a fifty-year-old family

secret: his father’s identity is an invention. This Anglo-African

colonial in a safari suit and desert boots is, in fact, a Polish Jew

whose family was torn apart by the Holocaust.

‘When a crocodile eats the sun’ is how some remote tribespeople

of Zimbabwe explain a solar eclipse; the celestial crocodile, they

say, briefly consumes the life-giving star as a warning that he is

much displeased with man below – the very worst of omens. Peter

Godwin’s powerful, moving memoir describes dark times and dark

aspects of human behaviour spanning two continents and half a

century; it is a searing portrayal of a son’s effort to rescue his

family, and a family’s struggle to belong in a hostile land.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Libby on 25 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
Through his personal perspective as a white African who continues to love his continent, combined with sound journalistic observation, research and deep insight, Peter Godwin has painted a poignant, touching and shocking picture of the decline of a beautiful country blessed with natural resources to an impoverished, suppressed shadow of its former self. This excellent book affected me (another displaced white African) profoundly, even more so because Godwin added several layers to make this book more than just a simple snapshot of a country or even one family's history. Highly recommended -- not only for people with a connection to Africa, but for everyone who wishes to have a better understanding of the world we live in. Don't miss it.
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90 of 93 people found the following review helpful By hacker on 4 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Godwin has a fantastic personal story to tell, in a very entertaining and personable style. He grew up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and this account covers his return to Zimbabwe when his father dies. The picture of life in modern Zimbabwe, and its massive failure politically and economically, is illustrated by personal observation, anecdotes and artfully interwoven historical detail. The book covers an unexpectedly wider field than Zimbabwe, however, including a background of the second world war and the Holocaust, and uncovering a tantalising family secret. Highly recommended.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By P. SCOTT on 3 Dec 2006
Format: Hardcover
Peter Godwin's latest book simply un-putdownable. It is exceptionally well-written and comes straight from the heart. His deeply personal memoir is told with total sincerity and not a trace of self-pity. The steady demise of Zimbabwe is profoundly disturbing and for myself, living in South Africa in these times, very poignant. The way he describes events that would be absurd anywhere else in the world is dead-on. He is obviously deeply passionate about his home country and his narrative is heart wrenching. Anyone living in Africa or interested in Africa should read this book - however be warned - it's not for the fainthearted. Thank you Peter for sharing this story, you have a true talent.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By S. Young on 6 Jan 2007
Format: Hardcover
Peter Godwin's personal story is intertwined with the very real downfall of Zimbabwe under Mugabe. The story of how his parents cope, while Whites across Zimbabwe are evicted and murdered is very emotional, and the story of the fall of Zimbabwes economy is infuriating. A really, really good read, which quickly has you thinking about all those reports you saw on TV not so long ago.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Godwin was born in Rhodesia, and in 1996 he published 'Makiwa', a gripping account of how he grew up in that country. He was conscripted into the Rhodesian army to fight against the independence movement, by which time he felt that he was fighting in an unjust cause. He eventually got to England, became a journalist, and in 1981, now based in the United States, he returned to what in 1980 had become independent Zimbabwe, partly because his parents were still living there and partly because he loved the country and its people. But he now had to record that the new government of Robert Mugabe was more savage than the white government had been and was carrying out bloody suppression in Matabeleland - a sign of things to come. Godwin's reporting at that time made him persona non grata and he had to leave Zimbabwe again, though he was able to return after Mugabe had `stabilized' the country with the so-called Unity Accord in 1987.

This second volume, first published in 2006, is an account of several later visits, beginning with one in 1996. In the chapters relating to 1996, 1997 and 1998, Mugabe's dictatorship is not central to his account, though of course he is aware of it; but he is more concerned with the quite non-political aspects of his family's life. At this time Mugabe had not yet whipped up anti-white agitation. Indeed he had for years encouraged white people to stay and help the Zimbabwean economy. In fact, in the year 2000, "78% of white farmers were on property they had purchased after independence, only when that land had first been offered to -and turned down by - the government, as was required by law" (p.56).

Godwin's next visit was in 2000.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By russell clarke TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Mar 2007
Format: Hardcover
Like a lot of fairly ignorant Westerners I was aware that Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe was a country in serious turmoil . It was not until I read When A Crocodile Eats The Sun( the Zulu explanation for a solar eclipse) that I realised that Zimbabwe is a country on the verge of total collapse. Unemployment runs at 80%...yes that's 80%, there is inflation running at a staggering 2000% and there is not enough ink and paper to print the newspapers to inform the public of this , not that they would be allowed to print it anyway .Journalist Peter Godwin , now a resident of New York continues the story he started with "Mukawi. A White Boy In Africa"- a book I must confess I haven't read - but this is a deeply personal and riveting account of life in that desperate country and it serves just fine as a stand alone read.

The narrative is a little too fractured at times and though Godwin clearly feels great affinity with his country men his journalistic microscope offers little in the way of coruscating insight -other than to compare what is happening with the holocaust , which I too feel is inappropriate-- and is frustratingly short on possible solutions.

Where the book really succeeds is the anecdotal accounts of living ...no existing in the hell that is Zimbabwe under Mugabe. The tales of his stoical parents putting up with corruption , threats and constant gnawing uncertainty are brilliantly told and quite affecting .This is where the books true strength lies... the descriptions of the day to day turmoil and fear of living under a monster like Mugabe . Something its difficult for us to appreciate. Why he is left to wreak this havoc unencumbered by the worlds self appointed police force is sort of answered by the books title. When all that's left is the digested carcass of the country called Zimbabwe why would any western Government want to pick over the bones.?
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