Book review: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers

A reflection and dissection of eight years in a small corner of Zimbabwe

A memoir of a country finger-nailed to a knife-edge should be a tough read but this isn’t.  It focuses on one family, the author’s, and is injected with hope.

Fear and the absurd have become part of every day life for Lyn and Ros Rogers but not for their well-travelled son who reports their lives on his trips home.

Douglas Rogers is our interpreter at the ringside of this struggle in which the team in our corner doesn’t seem to have been told the rules.  Gradually we realise that there are no rules but still Lyn and Ros, and those beside them, refuse to leave the ring.

We are made to care about this family and the characters who refuge in their backpackers lodge, Drifters.

Douglas Rogers, although now based in New York as a journalist, was born and educated in Zimbabwe.  His family on his father’s side have been in Africa for 350 years.

In 2002 Douglas visits Zimbabwe.  He describes sitting in front of the family television watching a programme based on President Robert Mugabe’s speeches.  All is calm until the President starts to urge white Zimbabweans to “go back to Britain, go back to Blair”.

The words ignite Lyn Rogers.  “Go back to Britain?  I am not British.  My family have been on this continent for 350 years!”

His son puts this into context: “Three hundred and fifty years in Africa?  It was true and yet it sounded absurd.  His ancestors – my ancestors – had arrived here in the time of Cromwell and William of Orange.  They were here a century before America’s War of Independence.”

The book covers the first decade of the millennium including two corrupt elections and the collapse of a currency out of control.  In spite of these odds most of those at Drifters manage to duck and weave through to the next round.

Douglas Rogers paints his pictures carefully.  The survival he shows us has many angles and most of them are uncomfortable.  The book does not offer any solutions but you don’t have to be Zimbabwean to relish the stubborn and cunning that keep the Rogers in with a chance.

A 2010 postscript ends the book but it does not try to predict the future.  All it can tell us is that the regime’s fist is now studded with diamonds and that Lyn and Ros are still standing.  It urges us to visit.

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