I keep finding more narratives about Zimbabwe. Bring it on, I say. I just love reading about the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and the hope many people had thirty years ago when Robert Mugabe took office.
If only things had gone differently.
This week I read House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe (Lawrence Hill Books, 2006) by Christina Lamb.
Lamb’s book chronicles the lives of two Zimbabweans: Nigel and Aqui. Nigel’s farming family enjoyed the riches of white Rhodesians. Elite schools, fashionable clothes, posh clubs, and enough food to last for years.
But Aqui’s family lived in dirt huts, didn’t wear shoes, never had enough to eat, and couldn’t afford to send their daughters to school once they reached double digits. Aqui was expected to marry an old man when she was 13. But as luck would have it, she moved into town with her aunt and uncle and married for love, not convenience. She was 14.
Nigel and Aqui were both born in the same year so it’s fascinating to follow their lives and see how they both changed their views on race relations in Zimbabwe. Right after Nigel and his wife have their first of five kids, they hire Aqui to take care of their children. Nigel and his wife pay for her to study and for her kids to go to school.
The book starts when Nigel’s farm is about to be taken by ‘war vets’, the loosely termed phrase for Red Guard-like bandits who terrorized Zimbabwean farmers–both black and white. Much to Nigel’s shock and dismay, Aqui is leading the group of bandits.
I enjoyed House of Stone for how it weaves the history of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe into the story of the two main characters. Lamb is a journalist and her attention to detail shines through in this book.
After reading similar books by Alexandra Fuller, Wendy Kann, Peter Godwin, Douglas Rogers, Lauren St. John, and now Christina Lamb, I can’t wait to read the next Zimbabwean narrative.