Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Some books are powerful - thanks to the prose, the story or the subject matter. Far From Home is powerful because of all three. It describes the sharp and terrible events in what used to be Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe. It shows the rise of Robert Mugabe to power. It manages to portray both sides of a conflict that tore a country apart and was a dark period in world history.
First we meet Tariro, and gain an insight into the lives of the Karanga people. She is a bright and charming young girl, in love with the brave and handsome Nhamo. Her whole life is in front of her - but then the white settlers arrive and steal all of that life away from her.
The second part of the novel shows Katie, a pampered daughter of one of the white settler families. She has been brought up to consider black people beneath her, and is forced to confront those prejudices when her uncle takes her into his home - the uncle that has taken a black woman to wife.
There is a connection between Tariro and Katie that brings the two story lines colliding together, and is fitting and neat.
Robert's prose is stark, clean and elegant. It details the sometimes shocking events with quiet dignity and helps to evoke feelings for both Tariro and Katie, despite the fact that they are on opposing sides of the tale.
The characters are brilliantly written, and it is simply awesome to see two female protagonists take centre stage.
Robert clearly writes from the heart and has a great deal of experience in the subject matter. She manages to convey a complex political situation with direct language and a lot of sympathy.
This, as I say, is a powerful book. It is very well written. But it is not fun or light. It is challenging, thought-provoking and has enormous depth.