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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad and moving book
Peter Godwin certainly has a story to tell. It's a story of an idyllic, if unusual childhood, a disrupted but eventually immensely successful education, military service and then two careers, one in law, planned but aborted, and then one in journalism, discovered almost by default. Listed like this these elements might sound just a bit mundane, perhaps not the subject of...
Published on 23 Sep 2007 by Philip Spires

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I have absolutely loved all of Peter Godwin's other books, but this one was less engaging. I found my mind wondering a little on occasion and have moved on to another book without finishing.
Published 9 months ago by Mrs Marguerite Gascoine


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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad and moving book, 23 Sep 2007
Peter Godwin certainly has a story to tell. It's a story of an idyllic, if unusual childhood, a disrupted but eventually immensely successful education, military service and then two careers, one in law, planned but aborted, and then one in journalism, discovered almost by default. Listed like this these elements might sound just a bit mundane, perhaps not the subject of memoir. When one adds, however, the location, Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe, the result is a deeply moving, in places deeply sad, as well as quite disturbing account of a life lived thus far. Mukiwa, by the way, is Shona for white man.

The setting for Peter Godwin's early years was a middle class, professional and, crucially, liberal family living in eastern Rhodesia, close to the Mozambique border. I had relatives in that same area, near Umtali and Melsetter, and they used to do exactly what the Godwins did regularly which was to visit the Indian Ocean beaches near Beira. We used to get postcards from there every year, usually in the middle of our north of England winter. Envy wasn't the word...

Peter Godwin's mother was a doctor and this meant that his childhood was unusual in two respects. Not many youngsters in white households had liberal-minded parents and even fewer helped their mothers conduct post mortems. Unlike most mukiwa, Peter Godwin had black friends. He learned the local language and got to know the bush. He also grew up close to death and then lived alongside it during the years of the war of independence. He describes how the war simply took over everything and labels himself as a technician in its machinations. It's a telling phrase, admitting that he did not himself want to fight anyone. Like everyone else, he was caught up in the struggle, required to actively perpetrate the violence and that is what he did.

His education was disrupted. His family life was effectively destroyed. And how he managed to keep his sanity during the period I have no idea. He served most of the period in Matebeleland alongside other members of the Rhodesian armed forces and police who were not, to say the least, as liberal as he was. So in some ways he was already doubly a foreigner in that he was working in an area where he could not speak the language and was accompanied by fellow countrymen with whom he shared no beliefs or ideals. And yet he had to fight.

I have never served in a war and hope I never will. But my relatives from the same area as Peter Godwin were also called up into national service and also fought the war. I had not seen them for fifteen years or so when we met after they, along with many thousands of others, as recorded by Peter Godwin, had already fled south. But for them also memories of war were deep and resented scars. It was a bloody and dirty war where, if you were lucky, you could at most trust your closest colleagues. It was a vicious conflict at times and left everyone angry. No-one won. Everyone suffered.

Having eventually achieved the education he sought, Peter Godwin attempted to launch a legal career. But then, almost by default, he became a reporter. After independence, he learned of atrocities perpetrated by the Zambabwean army in the area where he had served during the war. He investigated. He reported. And then, on advice, he fled.

But he did eventually return to all of the areas he knew and the last part of the book is a moving and deeply sad account of how little he recognised in the places he loved as a child. But within this, there is a moment of hope as he meets a former freedom fighter and, with humour and new friendship, the two of them realise that they had not only been enemies, but had actually been two commanders trying to kill one another on opposite sides of the same skirmish.

But in the end, Peter Godwin is changed man, and his home and homeland, at least as he had experienced them, were no more. War had changed everything and everyone. No-one won.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant read, 19 Jun 1999
By A Customer
An absolute delight...one minute you're crying, the next belly laughing. It was so enjoyable I rationed myself to reading only one chapter a day so it would last longer. I regard it as one of my all time favourites.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, 31 Aug 2010
For me it was a trip down memory lane going to places from my childhood. But having spoken to many other people who are not from Africa and have read it , it is an interesting and imparitally told story, well written, and uplifting. I laughed and cried through the book - great great story telling
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad, funny, entertaining and traumatic at the same time, 15 July 2010
By 
Gary Bembridge "gary_bembridge" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having grown up in Zimbabwe at the same time as Peter writes about, I found this book entertaining, funny, depressing, sad, traumatic and disturbing all at the same time. He is a fabulous writer and all his books I have read so far are very compelling and beautifully written. I highly recommend this book and also his Crocodile Eats The Sun if you want to understand better the confusion and emotion that the White population of Zimbabwe went through. Of course there is a deep tragedy he describes from the Black Zimbabwe population, but his story and books are about how the white man struggled to both feel and be part of the country while also finding he was no longer welcome. I eagerly await his new book due out later this year
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, 16 Mar 2007
By 
T. Williams "Maranatha!" (North West, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a triumph. Godwin's account of the beginnings of Rhodesia's move towards independence and its fruition in 1980 is a beautifully crafted, honest and at times terrifying read. I have never in my life finished a book and immediately turned back to page 1 and started all over again (although I did force myself to stop at page 18 when I realised what I was doing). Peter Godwin invites us to share the love he has for his family, friends and a country struggling to free itself from its colonial past. From childhood to adulthood Mukiwa charts the drastic changes of a country and its effect on the Godwin's. The companion piece, When A Crocodile Eats the Sun is even more profound. A work that lets us know more of the tragic situation in Zim. I wept.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful encaptivating insight to open your eyes, 12 Sep 2000
By A Customer
A fantastic book for everybody. It gave me an interresting insight into the colourful politics of the rhodesian war. Peter Godwin's experiences will change your views and open your mind. This charming story of his change from boy to man also dipicts a beutiful country that has since been shadowed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heartbreaking but you MUST read it, 22 Feb 2010
I am new to biography and knew very little about this part of Africa

I remember new pupils coming to my primary school but I didn't see the significance apart from it was weird there were middle class white kids turning up from Africa. OUr teacher told us to be nice to them.

I was enthralled by this book. I found it insightful and sensitive. Be warned though - he doesn't pull his punches and if you are looking to be offended by something you could dig it out of here.

This is a man who loves his country and wants us to understand it in all its beauty and horror.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, brilliant, 6 Nov 2010
By 
Julie Surycz (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Wow. This book is amazing. I have spent the entire day reading and I couldn't put it down. It was absolutely gripping. I am South African and can remember and relate to the events Peter describes in his book. I hope that things will improve in Zimbabwe. I ache for the Zimbabwean people and their years and years of suffering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes you back to Africa, 17 May 2010
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I am speechless. Peter Godwin's use of the language and his vivid descriptions of Africa are without equal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 23 Feb 2010
This book is excellent and by some margin the best autobiography I have read. Anyone with any interest in African History and culture should read this definitive book on the painful transition and ultimate decline of the former colonies.
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