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Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm
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Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  583 ratings  ·  89 reviews
This is a story about a paradise lost. . . . About an African dream that began with a murder . . .In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, eleven-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slowflowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerr ...more
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Scribner Book Company (first published April 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,008)
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Chrissie
I really enjoyed this book. It never drags. It has humor. It captures the author's childhood and development into adulthood movingly and honestly. How did the whites in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, see their land? Yes, they considered it their land, which is a bit hard to comprehend for those readers who haven't been in their shoes. For four generation the author's family lived in what was before Rhodesia, Ian Smith's Rhodesia. They loved that land, not just its physical attributes but also the entir ...more
Leo Passaportis
I really enjoyed this book, not least of all because it related to me on so many levels: as someone who grew up in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia); the familiarity of the places and things she mentions and the power of nostalgia; the conflicts of the heart, especially the dual sense of belonging and not belonging; and even, but not especially, the mention of a relative of mine who ran a hotel in Gadzema.

This is a good and honest memoir. I really appreciated the author for having done that. There we
...more
Vivian
What was it about this book that captured my curiosity so much that it made the cut onto a library order for young adults out of hundreds of competitors? Was it my fascination with Africa? Was it the title? Was it the cover? Perhaps my curiosity was piqued by a quick skim of the review quotes.

I found myself anxiously looking forward to reading the next installment. I loved the author's descriptions, insights, narrative flow, and her skill with words. I loved this book. It was also interesting re
...more
Rebekah
My mom has always told me stories of her country. She tells me about when her dad would come back in a hyena (military vehicle) from the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of when her dad tossed pamphlets from a plane and hit someone on the head on accident during the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of the many drills they had so they would be safe. I relate so much to this book, and that is one thing I love about this book.
A little girl moves with her parents and sister,Lisa to Gadze
...more
Ruth
The edition that I read had a much better cover than the ones on offer here. Less melodramatic in overall composition but still with the basic theme of a child with a weapon. Whilst this covers a similar era to the books written by Ms Fuller, it covers a slightly earlier period with the author being slightly older to boot. Viewing the same events from a slightly older perspective (um, my own), I have to say that I think the author was absolutely spot on with how she described the fervour of the ...more
Kw
Beautifully written memoir of the author's childhood and teen
years in war-torn Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. The family structure, settings,
and characters are colorful and intriguing.
Stacy
I never learned much about Africa in school. But the countries in Africa have a rich history. Lauren St John tells us about her life in the context of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's history as a nation, particularly during the turbulent years of the civil war.

Lauren is much like I was as a child. A bit of a tomboy, obsessed with horses and animals, and idealizing her father. She spends the majority of her childhood on one of two farms surrounded by the wild and domesticated animals she loves. Meanwhile, th
...more
Alistair
Jun 03, 2008 Alistair rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who liked " let's not go to the dogs tonight "
this only buying books with a dog on the cover has proved an infallible method of choosing good books
i loved this from start to finish . the memoir of a young girl growing up in Rhodesia before during and after it turned into Zimbabwe is both full of the smells , sounds and light of Africa but full of the casual death , racism and brutality that accompanies it
this is no bleeding heart liberal tale , far from it , but as the writer grows up and leaves her very own Garden of Eden , she realises
...more
Dayna
It's dumbfounding that some people found this to be a slow read. Quite the opposite, I luxuriated in the author's descriptions and found them to be lush, insightful, and heartbreaking. I do wish the author didn't hurriedly summarize the last 20 or so years of her life to fit into the last two chapters of the book. I don't think you can rightly record the emotional, political and historical changes which ensued after the election of Mugabe to power in just two chapters. However, I didn't read thi ...more
Sally
This book broke my heart. ( I must admit, I think I'm a sucker for memoirs. I am drawn into others' stories, recognizing on a deep level how we are all the same.) This story of a childhood in a country that no longer exists was wrenching. All that she loved was removed from her: her parents' relationship ended in turmoil; her country was erased. As we are now studying modern history, I was intrigued by the idea of Rhodesia ending and Zimbabwe beginning..... Having overthrown the white oppressors ...more
Cheryl
Lyrical prose that captures you from the first chapter: the story of a family gunned down in race wars. Then you learn that the family is not the author's, that they're significant to the story because the author and her family will later move into this family's house.

While this is one of the better stories I've read about the former Rhodesia, and a more honest narrative of the slavery of Africans within Africa, I was disappointed that details of the war didn't start until Chapter 11. Minor det
...more
Sherry Mackay
I found this memoir fascinating. I am not sure if she was this insightful about herself and her family when she was young, but she really takes us into her mind and feelings as a young girl growing up in a time of political and domestic unrest in her life. I got a real sense of the disparity between black and white lives in her country, and how she had no idea as a youngster that she was living an incredibly privileged life as part of the white ruling population. I would love to hear more about ...more
Gwen
Fascinating view of childhood and a childhood's view of Rhodesia during it's war of independence. I am beginning to wonder if all white families living during this time period were eclectic, dysfunctional, and alcoholic, tho'. Highly recommended if you like reading about other people's family life or a personal view of African history.
Marian Burke
A beautiful, haunting and heart-wrenching coming-of-age story for both the writer and her beloved country. I could not put it down. My daydreams are now filled with visions of the African bush and giraffes at sunset.
Juanita
This really captured me.
Hope she writes more.
Interesting that Alexandra
Fuller's "Let's not go out
with the Dogs Tonight"
was writing of the same
period in Africa. Both
beautifully written.
Sheila
This book is great. Gives a wonderful and insightful picture of life in Rhodesia prior to the end of British rule and then after. A true story told through the eyes of a teenage girl.
Kristin
I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars. This book is the story of Lauren St. John's childhood growing up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) as part of the white "colonialist-type" farming community that existing prior to black majority rule. She does a beautiful job explaining what it was like growing up as part of this community, the culture of the community (the good and the bad), how it was to live on the land and her attachment to the land, etc. She does a particularly good job explaining the "culture of war" i ...more
Ann
Since spending the summer of 1985 in Keny, E. Africa, I have had a continuing fascination and heart tug for the turbulent history of African countries. This memoir of Lauren St. John's upbringing in Rhodesia durning the civil war that turned Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and self-rule was captivating. She tells of growing up with a father who loved nature and land and the wild nature of Africa and a mother who longed to travel and see other countries and who loved the finer things in life. The resulta ...more
Valerie


I am as familiar with the political turmoil of Zimbabwe as any Californian who spent a magical holiday there, reads all published book on the subject, collects the postage stamps of British South Africa, and who wakes from dreams of being in a mist filled carvan park, surrounded by an enormous herd of horses for no reason, because that sort of thing just happens to you.

I don't believe this was the best written book on the subject of growing up "WhenWe", but it had something going for it that no
...more
Liddy Barlow
My church in New Hampshire is paired with a congregation in Zimbabwe, and that connection inspired me to pick up this memoir of growing up in the midst of the war in the late 1970s that placed Mugabe in power and created Zimbabwe from Rhodesia. St. John writes vividly of her active childhood on the farm her father managed: dodging poisonous snakes, befriending giraffes and warthogs, and fearing the "terrs," the guerrillas who targeted white landowners. Gradually her youthful patriotism (she has ...more
Alannah Marie
I really enjoyed this book and the honesty that Lauren St John has put into this novel. I read this book in high school as a gift from my aunt and I still remember a lot of what happened in the book years later - a sure sign of a good book.
Ana
I finally finished this book! It took me a long time to read it, and an even longer time to get into it. The beginning was so slow and I was fully prepared to give it a bad review, and one star, but towards the last part of the book it finally caught my interest. I think the author spend to much time on one part of her life when she was very young. Or perhaps that what I seemed liked to me, and then she quickly rushed through her older adolescent years which were the most interesting. Still her ...more
Sonia
So much like the works of Alexandra Fuller that I think I'll forever get them confused. Rainbow's End is the memoir of a woman who grew up in Rhodesia during the war. The story is as much about the clashes between the armies as it is the clashes between her parents and the ultimate dissolving of the country and her family.

What a way to grow up - having your mother say "watch out for crocodiles" when you go out to play; having a pet giraffe and warthog; having terrorists creeping around your hou
...more
Laurie
I thought parts of this book were interesting, but overall it was a pretty slow read. The character development was such that you got a glimpse of who the individuals were, but never felt a connection with any of them.

In terms of the war angle, I felt myself yearning for more. The book opens with a gut wrenching scene, that leaves you wanting more, but it falls flat afterwards. Even as the monstrosities of the war are relayed, I didn't feel the depth of the pain and suffering, and therefore was
...more
Tracie
Sometimes you pick up a book that is so different from your own experiences that it seems unreal. Lauren St. John takes us to her childhood and adolescence growing up during the war for independence in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The daily terrors of being killed by rebels, poisonous snakes or other hazards are horrifying to read but the love for Africa and the beauty of life is just as strong.
I picked this up because I enjoy Lauren St. John's books for kids. This is full of the influences from
...more
Audrey
This was my third memoir written about a childhood spent in Africa during the early 70's when a bloody war of independence was fought in Rhodesia which became today's Zimbabwe.

The book opens with a tragic story of a terrorist attack on Rainbow's End the farm which leaves a once happy family devastated.

It then picks up the story of the narrator as she and her family, her father and mother and little sister travel and live for a short time at different locations in Africa until they finally settle
...more
Beth Maddaus
I really enjoy books about Africa and this one was especially meaningful. Like Alexandra Fuller who wrote "Let's not go to the Dogs Tonight", Lauren St. John came of age during the Rhodesian war. At the age where her adolescence would require her to question her world and the values around her--her world and the values around her were shown to all the world to be lies. The book is very well written and it is easy to enter Lauren's head and share her awe at the natural wonders around her as well ...more
Roni
St. John described the wildlife, her pets, the landscape and the food in Rhodesia well. I didn't get a good feel for the characters, though. She was dropping names of people all over the place and I couldn't remember who most of them were. Her sister was practically nonexistent. If there's a theme, it's the ignorance of childhood, but a lot of other stuff was thrown in that didn't seem to have anything to do with anything. It also got off to a slow start describing all of the places she lived be ...more
Abbie
i loved this book. for anyone who loves memoirs, this is a beautiful one. the author paints a beautiful, yet terribly and very-humanly flawed picture of the country that was once Rhodesia, and then/now Zimbabwe. As Dictator Robert Mugabe is still very much in international news, this book is worth reading, to get a glimpse of life in that part of the world.
I highly recommend it. I'd very much like to visit, even though i don't know when it will be safe. This book did nothing but feed the fire i
...more
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