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Soldier blue: A memoir Paperback – 15 Apr 2008
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Sometimes you can't choose your own battles. A memoir of coming of age in Rhodesia explores the author's experiences as a young conscript caught up in the bush war of the late 1970s. This is a compelling, touching and often humorous account of growing up in a straitlaced, racist society and the absurdity of fighting for a dying regime. The ugliness of the conflict, the trauma of transformation, the agonies of conscience of the writer, the beauty of the landscape: all are captured here in brilliant detail. Threading through the narrative is the story of Williams' obsessive infatuation with the enigmatic, sharp-tongued Bianca Pennefather, who leads him on a painful emotional and spiritual journey. Looming over this fragile world is the grotesque experience of the battlefield, where young soldiers like Paul Williams inexorably shed their illusions and lost their youth.
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I can certainly vouch for this being an accurate record of events and the mood around that era. I was completely lost in the book and was reluctant to put it down.I liked his writing style and Paul's distinct modesty; most folk from this era big themselves up.
This is as close as I shall ever come to having a book written about me, even though not mentioned in it I could easily identify all the key players.
My wife had also come from Roosevelt School and equally enjoyed.
This is in the top 3 African memoir books I have read.
Many thanks Paul
This book, however, is head and shoulders above most books out here and easily in the Peter Godwin league.
As a Zimbabwean myself who returned recently on a similar pilgrimage, I wept whilst reading the hymn that Paul Williams quotes part of, as he sits in 2004, in the ruined grounds of his old school in Harare, now a middle-aged man:
'Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing, thanks for mercies past received,
Pardon all, their faults confessing, time that's lost may all retrieve'
Altogether this is an impressive memoir that tells a very human and moving story, while at the same time brilliantly evoking the historical, social and cultural milieu that was Rhodesia.
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