This memoir covers eight years in a country that is finger-nailed to a crumbling cliff. It should be a tough read…but it isn’t.
It is set in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s during the turmoil of the land reform programme, yet despite this, and thanks mainly to its focus on the author’s family, the book manages to keep a hopeful feel.
The author, Douglas Rogers, is a journalist in New York at the time, but he visits Zimbabwe often to see his parents who still live in the country where he was born and where he went to school.
On one visit to Zimbabwe in 2002 Douglas Rogers 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, his father.
“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.”
As readers we are only shown one decade in Zimbabwe, but just this includes two controversial elections and the collapse of a currency out of control. With each event the difficulties multiply, but somehow Lyn and Ros Rogers, owners of the backpacker lodge Drifters, manage to keep themselves and their guests on their feet.
In the book Douglas Rogers paints his pictures carefully. The survival he shows us has many angles and most of them are uncomfortable. He 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 is now bolstered by diamond wealth, and that Lyn and Ros are still standing.
It urges us to visit Zimbabwe.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2019