Ah, another memoir of growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I just can’t get enough.
This week I read my 5th in this genre, Lauren St John’s Rainbow’s End (Scribner, 2007).
St John grows up on a farm in rural Rhodesia, before the war in the late 1970s that would end white rule and eventually change the country’s name to Zimbabwe.
Surrounded by animals and the open plains, St John roams the land on her horse, Charm. Foster parent to pet snakes, pigs, sheep, and goats, she dreams of becoming a vet when she grows up. She even carries around a doctor kit to help care for the animals.
St John is a beautiful writer and even though I’ve read four other memoirs about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, I enjoyed her tales of growing up. I picked up the book, though, because I wanted to read more about the war. (It’d been a while since I’d read Alexandra Fuller’s and Wendy Kann’s Zimbabwean memoirs, which chronicled the war).
And I guess that’s where I wanted a little more from this book.
She opens with a gruesome murder at the farm where her family settles during the war, but then life goes on seemingly worry-free. The characters are never really in harm’s way and while her father is away from home six months of the year to fight in the Rhodesian army, the reader doesn’t learn much about what he does while he’s away.
Likewise, St John mentions her mother often went away to have operations and lost many babies, but by the end of the book, I still don’t know what kind of operations she had and how many babies she lost, except for one baby briefly mentioned in the middle of the story. Had she become pregnant by other men and gone off for abortions? Was she mentally ill and going for treatment? Or did she have another medical problem? St John certainly foreshadowed the operations, lost babies, and her father’s horrible secret, but then at the end left me hanging.
I also wish she would have written more about her views about white rule and how these views changed. She also delves briefly into some important personal details at the end without any forewarning. I wonder why her editors didn’t push for more.
Regardless of these flaws, I couldn’t put the book down.