This is another story about a childhood in Zimbabwe (and its precursor Rhodesia). Stories written across the colourline, written across the lines of class and upbringing.
Lauren St John writes about her youth and her life on several farms in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe. Her life is intertwined with these farms and the histories of these farms. In 1974 she lives in Cape Town, but her parents have a longing to return to Zimbabwe. In 1975 her father is the manager at a farm and the family lives at a rundown farmhouse. Her father enjoys the work on the farm (and other farms, like Rainbow’s End), the touch with the people and the wildlife. Her mother lives in a world of her own and prefers to travel, especially to Europe, but not even Europe is the end of her world.
Lauren prefers her life with horses and trotting on the endless farms and the bush. When independence comes life changes rapidly for Lauren. At het bpoardingschool girls from all kinds of background enter. Her own identity was closely connected with the former Rhodesia, but now? Who is Lauren now? She gets to understand more and more about the recent history of her country. Indeed, her country, for she wonders why a girl with four generations in Zimbabwe behind her should still be taken as an European. The terror of the Mugabe-regime is slowly but surely creeping into her life and understanding.
Her mother and sister have left Zimbabwe and move to Cape Town (South Africa). Father and Lauren stay in Zimbabwe, but later on also Lauren moves to the South. At the young age of seventeen she moves to the United Kingdom, a year later we find her again in Harare, where she studies journalism, later on she moves to the England again. For the research of her book she travelled to Zimbabwe to talk to people about her past and the past of the farms and about the present situation.
This book is a very personal book and wellwritten. It is a book about loss:
Lauren loses her place at her favourite farm Rainbow’s End.
She loses her connection with the old Rhodesia.
But she also loses her connection with the new Zimbabwe that does not live up to the expectations of so many people, including Lauren.
Next she loses the togetherness of her family. Her father and her mother live their seperate ways in separate places. The happiness of the past has gone. Each one on his own, is the new creed. But this creed is hard to live by.
The book reminded me of the books by Alexandra Fuller, but this book is less raw, even though it also describes a world of loss.
Lauren St John – Rainbow’s End. A memoir of childhood, war & an African farm – 2007