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Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,890 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
January 1998

Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa is the story of Peter Godwin's experiences growing up in Rhodesia. He recounts the story of that country's violent transformation into Zimbabwe, as well as his own personal metamorphoses from privileged boy to reluctant soldier to investigative journalist.

Godwin's story begins, "I think I first realize

Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 10, 2015 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In those days we called African men ‘boys’. We had cook boys and garden boys, however old they might be. African nannies we called girls.”

I think I quite purposely avoided memoirs written by white Africans. I was afraid of their 'good old days' nostalgia and I had no interest in hearing about their blissful colonial childhoods.

This, however, was nothing like this. Even though some reviewers claim the first part of this memoir describes an innocent childhood in Rhodesia, I really fail to see ju
Jun 20, 2007 Christa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommend
My boyfriend's Dad grew up in Zimbabwe about the same time as this author and gave this book to my boyfriend(Pete) as the closest example of how his life was growing up. Pete gave it to me after watching me try to read a series of autobiographies on the same subject which just weren't that great.
Godwin is a journalist and writes in the journalist style I can never decide if I like, but it's an interesting book and offers tons of info on Zim in the 70s.
My Dad recently returned from South Africa a
Sep 19, 2008 Philip rated it really liked it
Peter Godwin certainly has a story to tell. It’s a story of an idyllic, if unusual childhood, a disrupted but eventually immensely successful education, military service and then two careers, one in law, planned but aborted, and then one in journalism, discovered almost by default. Listed like this these elements might sound just a bit mundane, perhaps not the subject of memoir. When one adds, however, the location, Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe, the result is a deeply moving, in places deeply sad, ...more
Peter Godwin
Jan 23, 2011 Peter Godwin rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Mikey B.
Jul 26, 2013 Mikey B. rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, autobiography
This book is divided into three sections. The first is about the author’s upbringing in what was then Rhodesia – the relationship to his parents and sister, schooling – the normal kind of stuff – except with a Rhodesian angle. There is a slowly escalating violence, but white Rhodesians continue to believe in the bubble they inhabit – unable to view life outside of this paradigm.

The writing throughout is matter-of-fact and reads well, almost like a novel. The second section concerns his recruitme
Sep 11, 2014 Tania rated it really liked it
This book was written in three parts:
1. A description of his African childhood.
I don't think it was the author's intention, but I felt very sorry for this lonely little boy. I had to remind myself that this was a different time, and that children were raised with much less fuss.
2. His time fighting in the Rhodesion war.
Imagine figting a war that you don't believe in. Putting your life on the line for a war you know can't be won.
3. His time as a lawyer and investigative reporter in Zimbabwe.
Melissa Lindsey
I had no idea what I was reading when I picked up this book. I think I expected a coming of age story, filled with lots of memories of the author's early years in Zimbabwe. And I certainly got that. His memories of early life with his nanny and the other servants, as well as his times in school reveal a sensitive child, who struggles at times to understand the brutality of the world around him. At the same time, he has a comfort and detachment with death that comes from having a mother whose wor ...more
Brittany Kubes
Dec 31, 2011 Brittany Kubes rated it liked it
A “mukiwa” is a fig that is the same color as white people. Peter Godwin wrote a memoir about being a mukiwa in the changing African country of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In a quick read, Godwin writes about (1) his pleasant childhood growing up in the African wilderness, (2) being a disillusioned police officer during the Rhodesian Bush War, and (3) investigating, as a lawyer and journalist, Zimbabwe war crimes. I don’t mean to be jaded, but at times African war destruction tales can get rather uniform ...more
Joan Colby
Mar 26, 2010 Joan Colby rated it it was amazing
A very well-written and engaging memoir which is part the experience of a white boy in Africa and part a coming of age story. Godwin was born in Rhodesia to a father who was a factory manager and a mother who was a doctor. Both were idiosyncratic characters who embodied the British ideal of the stiff upper lip. As a child, Godwin frequently accompanied his mother on her medical rounds which included some revolting autopsies done in the field. He was sent to boarding school at the age of 6 which ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing
Peter Godwin's Mukiwa is a remarkable book. It tells the story of his youth and experiences growing up in Rhodesia in the 1960s and 1970s. It is especially meaningful to me because I lived there for 13 years (1967 - 1980)and know so many of the people and places that he so eloquently describes. His words are so truthful and descriptive that I found myself yearning to go back, and remembering so much of my own life there that had slipped into the far recesses of my memory. From everyday life thro ...more
Sep 26, 2010 AJ rated it really liked it
I read this book mostly one night sitting by a fire in Plettenburg Bay, South Africa - waiting for a cab at 1:30 am.

I read Godwin's second book first, and I really liked it. This book was about his childhood and I thought it was really great too.

It was a bit strange, because it seemed like a real life Power of One, without the fantastical ledgend aspect. Many of the same situations happened to Godwin.

Plus, learning about the Rhodesian war and then the subsequent civil war from the point of vie
Sep 19, 2015 Rita marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
KINGA's review is very positive:
"I think I quite purposely avoided memoirs written by white Africans. I was afraid of their 'good old days' nostalgia and I had no interest in hearing about their blissful colonial childhoods.

This, however, was nothing like this. Even though some reviewers claim the first part of this memoir describes an innocent childhood in Rhodesia, I really fail to see just how carefree and innocent it really was. It does open with one of the narrator’s earliest memories – tha
Feb 15, 2015 Marcy rated it really liked it
A little boy with his family had emigrated from Great Britain to live in the "white rule" of colonial Rhodesia. Black guerrillas who wanted Rhodesia to have black rule, and expel the white settlers out of their land, started to brutally attack white individuals and whole families. Peter Godwin's mother was a doctor who investigated the death of both blacks and whites. Peter would often accompany his mother on her investigations and watch her cut open bodies to determine the cause of death. Peter ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Jul 30, 2014 Margo Tanenbaum rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, africa
Peter Godwin, born and raised in what was then Rhodesia, tells the story of his boyhood and journey into manhood, which coincided with the civil war that resulted in black Africans taking power from the white Rhodesians who had been there for generations. Required to do military service when finishing high school, Godwin joins an elite unit of the police, and finds himself fighting in a civil war he hates for a dying white government that he doesn't believe in. Eventually he is able to leave the ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Evocative, well written, passionate, detailed I felt part and parcel of Peter's life as he takes the reader through his childhood and into his early adult years in War torn Zimbabwe. The strength if this book I think is that the writer has written it from the heart, almost in a process of catharsis. As I turn the last page my mind is still full of its images, colours, sounds, smells and real life characters. It is written with humanity and with pride. A definite must read for anyone who wants to ...more
Diana Maynard
Jan 02, 2016 Diana Maynard rated it it was amazing
Excellent and well-written autobiography of Peter Godwin's life growing up in Rhodesia and its violent transformation into Zimbabwe.
Val Johnston
Jul 23, 2007 Val Johnston rated it it was amazing
Great story by a great author relating a funny but sad story of a crumbling little Country.
Dec 01, 2012 Dianaddreamer rated it it was amazing
It's only the beginning.
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 04, 2016 Anita Pomerantz rated it liked it
Shelves: f2f-book-club
Well, it's a memoir.

One that shouldn't be at the top of your list.

I read this book for my f2f book club, and it's a good thing because otherwise I'd have seriously wondered why I wasted my time on it.

The book is separated into four parts.

Godwin's childhood in pre-war Rhodesia is the entire first half of the book. It's boring. He writes it in a child-like voice. That doesn't make it better.

The rest of the book addresses Godwin's involvement in the civil war in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) followed by his
Jan 04, 2016 Lena rated it it was amazing
One of my interests is reading about people who live in other people's countries, especially those in Africa. When it comes down to reality, most of us live in other people's countries, whether or not we were born in those.
This book was exceptional. Done in three parts - childhood, army, and foreign correspondent - we first met the author during his non-idyllic realistic childhood. He sort of wanted to escape when the civil war started, but his parents talked him out of it, as they all felt that
Feb 23, 2016 Belle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When working and living outside of Africa I have read quite a few 'growing up in Africa' memoirs to remind me of home and this is by far the best that I have read.

This book is at times very funny, the African way of life is told in a very easy manner. The humour, Africa Time, the lack of health and safety and the respect for burials. It is a beautiful account of loss and times gone past, not just in Zimbabwe but generational.

I loved the story of the very young Godwin being the fly swatter whil
Mar 24, 2015 Tokolosh rated it it was amazing
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Jul 04, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Godwin wrote Mukiwa as three "books" within a book. The first tells of his childhood and youth in colonial Rhodesia as it was crumbling and guerrillas were becoming progressively more active. The second book relates the period of his required national service, which he entered with considerable misgiving. He chose to serve in the police force rather than the military, although the distinction between the two was increasingly blurred. The final book begins with his return home, after several year ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Corto rated it it was amazing
Feb 14, 2013 Sue rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, memoir, zimbabwe
Peter Godwin grew up in Rhodesia. His father was a land manager and his mother was a doctor. The book is an account of his experiences growing up white in the years before the war which resulted in blacks taking power and the country changing to Zimbabwe. As a young adult, he had to serve his time in military service and was part of the police force as the unrest grew. Later he worked as a reporter for the London Times and exposed some of the war atrocities. He was banned from the country for s ...more
Juliet Wilson
Jun 15, 2009 Juliet Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This is a memoir of the author's childhood, adolescence and parts of his adulthood spent in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). I visited Zimbabwe twice between 1990 and 1992 when I lived in Malawi (including a number of the places featuring here) and although I knew some of what happened there in the 1960s - 1980s, I was interested to find out more. This is a stunning book, heartbreakingly sad in its cataloguing of wartime atrocities and life in a country torn apart, but sometimes also very funny (especia ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Lydia rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The first parts of Mukiwa show us Africa through a child's eyes: a world of danger, magic and death. The child's eye sees death as if through a pane of glass, an interesting (and sometimes) amusing spectacle, full of pungent smells and revolting sights, while staying ignorant of the consequences, cocooned in his little world of private schools and powerful parents. As Godwin grows older, death encroaches more and more on his world until he finds himself in the thick of it, a soldier fighting in ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Alistair rated it it was amazing
Brilliant memoir of life in Rhodesia as it entered the civil war that ended in the deposing of Iain Smith and white rule .

There are three parts . The first about the author's youth and is largely an evocation of the sounds , smells and magical world of Africa with its dangers and exhilarating landscapes .

The second part deals with the war and the transition to black rule

The third with his return as a rebellion in Matabeleland is ruthlessly and bloodily put down by the Mugabe led majority govern
Feb 26, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
I finished reading this book in the same week the sad news about the death of journalist Marie Colvin hit the news. Peter Godwin is a white man who grew up in Rhodesia, seemed to have a lovelly middle class childhood with his father a company boss and his mother a community Doctor, then the trouble starts when it is decided to end white rule and establish a new Government. I was a teenager at the time and dont remember much about it, we looked at it in black and white, oh yes the country is Afr ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Gwen rated it it was amazing
I didn't want to enjoy this book but became engrossed in spite of myself. After reading his book, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, (which is about his return to Zimbabwe as an adult to care for his aging parents), I found the author to be pretentious - a free lance writer living in NYC and visiting Africa to see his parents and special writing assigments. However, after reading about his childhood and years serving in the army during Rhodesia's civil war, I was impressed that Peter Godwin survived ...more
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"Peter Godwin was born and raised in Africa. He studied law at Cambridge University, and international relations at Oxford. He is an award winning foreign correspondent, author, documentary-maker and screenwriter.

After practicing human rights law in Zimbabwe, he became a foreign and war correspondent, and has reported from over 60 countries, including wars in: Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe
More about Peter Godwin...

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