Tuesday, March 17, 2009

House of Stone...random thoughts

House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe by Christina Lamb.

What a wonderful book. Not a happy book. Easy to read, because it was very well-written. Difficult to read, because it hurt. It hurt in the way that so much of human history and human politics hurts to read about. House of Stone was written by Christina Lamb, a journalist who spent many years reporting on Zimbabwe, a woman who risked her life on many occasions because British journalists were banned from even entering the country. While I believe she was quite objective in her telling of this story, I also believe that she loves the people of this country.

The book tells the story of this southern African nation in a unique way. In alternating chapters, we hear the story of two Zimbabwean's lives. Aqui, a Shona who was born and grew up in a mud hut. Nigel, a privileged white who attended private school and spent carefree summers playing in the beautiful African landscape. We hear their stories as they grow from childhood into adulthood. Their personal stories through the times of brutal civil war, through the change from a white supremacist government to black majority rule, through the descent into tyranny by Robert Mugabe. And we eventually see their lives intersect.

I recently read a book titled Dictatorships: Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe by James R. Arnold and Roberta Wiener, so I had a background in the history and politics of this nation. But you don't need any prior knowledge, as Lamb's book brought a real richness to that background. The personal stories of Aqui and Nigel are put in the setting of fuller history of the nation.

Truly, I loved this book, and I highly recommend it. But be forewarned...your heart will break as read about Robert Mugabe's destruction of this beautiful African country. Your heart will break for the people of this country.


Other opinions:

Eva of A Striped Armchair

If you've reviewed this book, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here. Thanks.


Chris said...

Oh, I don't know if I can read this one or not! But I might try it...I usually hate reading memoirs about massive human sorrow, but they're important in a way too. Like The Translator...such a sad book, but so powerful of a book at the same time. One day when I'm feeling like a glutton for punishment, I may pick this one up ;)

Nymeth said...

I finished Gorillas in the Mist a couple of days ago (and loved it), and it made me want to read more about Africa. About the people in several countries and what they had to endure, because poverty, violence, etc. are a big part of the reason why conservation efforts are so difficult. Thank you for this review, Debi.

Scrap girl said...

I read Ancestor Stones at the beginning of the year and that dealt with life in Africa and how it had changed over the years. I like the sound of this one as it tells both sides of the story - you get to read about the priveleged and the poor. Definitely one for the TBR pile.

Debi said...

I honestly don't think you'll regret it if you decide to read it.

It's been quite a while now, but I remember really loving Gorillas in the Mist, too. Very sad, but very, very good. Annie and I have been studying Africa this year, and I tell you, the more I learn, the more I love that continent, yet the more my heart breaks for the way the people there have been treated.

Scrap Girl,
I've never heard of Ancestor Stones, but I'm definitely going to look into it.

Kailana said...

This sounds like something I would enjoy! I will have to check it out. :)

Eva said...

Great review Debi! Was this the book where the man talked about his schoolmates heating up pennies and then tossing them to the begging children from the train on the way to school and laughing when they were burnt? That image just sticks with me.

Melody said...

Sounds like a powerful read, Debi! I've The Translator in my pile but just haven't got around to reading it. I guess I need to have the right mood of reading that one...

Debi said...

I don't think you'll be disappointed if you read it.

It is. And I know just what you mean. It was such a ridiculous act of cruelty that it just turned the stomach. Despite the fact that there were far harsher atrocities committed in this country, hearing about how even school kids could so callously do such things just really hit hard.

Yeah, I know what you mean about being in the right mood. I'm read so much depressing stuff here lately that I think I just need something totally light and playful. I read The Translator last year...it's a good book. With some tough parts, for sure.

Joy said...

This sounds like an extremely interesting read. Thanks for the heads-up.

Trish said...

I haven't read anything about Zimbabwe, but everything that I've read about other African nations has left me heartbroken. I'll definitely add this one to my list--sounds like such a powerful read.

sophisticateddorkiness.com said...

I found this review because of your March wrap-up post, I'm not sure how I missed it earlier. I've wanted to read this book since I read Peter Godwin's memoir When A Crocodile Eats the Sun which is also about the destruction of Zimbabwe, but I just never made the effort to get it until now.

Thanks for the reminder!

Rebecca :) said...

This sounds like a powerful book! I like your review of it. I have all your reviews for the 21 Cultures Challenge posted now. Sorry for the HUGE delay.