Monica G. of Naples, Florida often reviews books on this blog. She was born in Africa and grew up in London. Her background plays an important role in reviewing When a Crocodile Eats the Sun/A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin. Because of her personal life experiences, you'll find her perceptions particularly discerning.
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WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN/A Memoir of Africa BY PETER GODWIN
Reviewed by Monica G.
"It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the White man, the second worst was his departure."
Once in a while one reads a book that resonates with you. Perhaps it was because I was born in Africa, perhaps because I could relate to losing a home and being far away from family. Whatever the reason, if you would like to read a beautifully written book that has a human element, this book is for you.
When the Crocodile Eats the Sun is a memoir, a human tragedy. I found myself enjoying Peter Godwin's writing style and learning about the politics of a part of Africa, Zimbabwe, that I knew little about. He shows both the brutality of Africa and at the same time the beauty, in his descriptions of the scenery, the people, the traditions.
Peter Godwin was born in Zimbabwe, and is an award winning journalist and filmmaker who also writes for National Geographic. Perhaps it is this combination that makes the book so memorable and one that I will never forget.
He is sent to Africa on assignments and we see Africa through his eyes. It gives an insight into the political situation in Zimbabwe at the turn of the century in great detail. He depicts an Africa that is both brutal and beautiful.
"I feel like weeping at the way Africa does this to you...one minute you're scared shitless, the next you are choked with affection"
To me this book is also partly a love story, a love of Africa and family. The tender love between his parents is moving.
Peter is living in New York. His family lives in Zimbabwe. He is called back when his father dies and then the story begins. There is a constant tug back to Africa and family, and he is obviously torn. His devotion to his parents is touching and his portrayal of a family that does not want to accept what is going on around them.
You see both the destruction of a country and the destruction of a family. Even though there is savagery and chaos, his family refuses to leave. Once affluent citizens, they are reduced to poverty. They are targets, as are other white farmers, to a nation driven to insanity by a dictator, Robert Mugabe.
It is the human element of the book that I particularly enjoyed. His parents flee to Africa to escape and become prisoners, yet they could not bear to leave it.
"However mad and sad the place has become".... I realize just how African my parents have become...."that this is their home."
In Africa, you feel perishable, temporary, transient... maybe that is why you live more vividly in Africa. People love harder there...the drama of life is amplified by its constant proximity to death.
Even when his father dies, his mother refuses to leave and quotes Rudyard Kipling: "Here is my heart, my soul, my mind - the only life I know, I cannot leave it all behind, command me not to go".
You will find this book both poignant and touching. I highly recommend it.MG
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