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An Elegy for Easterly: Stories

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  351 ratings  ·  74 reviews
A woman in a township in Zimbabwe is surrounded by throngs of dusty children but longs for a baby of her own; an old man finds that his new job making coffins at No Matter Funeral Parlor brings unexpected riches; a politician's widow stands quietly by at her husband's funeral, watching his colleagues bury an empty casket. Petina Gappah's characters may have ordinary hopes ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 895)
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This debut short-story collection by Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah is a wonderful read. The tone of each one is perfect: the language is consistently beautiful but also completely natural. You get to know the characters very quickly, through small details artfully described, and are left at just the right moment to move on to the next tale.

The title gives a clue to what's in store. "Elegy" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "A song of lamentation, esp. a funeral song or lament for
I liked these stories separately and together. Almost all are set in the Zimbabwe of the dictator Robert Mugabe, sometimes with a minor backstory from the time of the guerrilla war. In the one story set outside Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwean man whose life and understanding are constrained by the various kinds of poverty he brings with him from Zimbabwe tries to cope in Europe but is betrayed by his own limitations and by other Africans. Readers will see the latter kind of understated, almost hidden, be ...more
Christopher Charamba
This collection of short stories form a brilliant read. In An Elegy for Easterly the author manages to capture moments in the lives of Zimbabweans. Growing up in Zimbabwe the stories are familiar, I have my own cousin-sister Rambanai, I know my own M'dhara Vitalis, I bought my own school uniforms from maIndia, waited for something nice from London. Petina Gappah with this cross section Zimbabweans rich and poor alike, urban and rural, illustrates beautifully their afflictions and their successes ...more

From BBC Radio 4 - Afternoon Reading:

Our Man in Geneva Wins a Million Euros is the next selected story from An Elegy for Easterly, Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah's debut collection and winner of the Guardian First Book Award for 2009. Today an embassy official posted to Geneva sets out to claim his lottery winnings. Each of the three stories selected from

An Elegy For Easterly are acutely observed, powerful and poignant. They are populated by characters struggling to live in Mugabe's Z

Leonie Stanley
When I bought this book, I was on a mission. I was looking for something 'fresh'! The reason for this mission was that every time I picked up a new book, the words 'best-selling author' was printed across the top and I could not understand how all these authors could be the best selling one? I mean they all arrived at the bookstore at the same time, or launched within days of one another so how can they all be THE best seller? Still baffles me so I will have to do some research on that one.

But l
I normally don't like short stories much. But I heard the author on Fresh Air and was intrigued enough to get the book. And I loved the way it transported me into contemporary Zimbabwe -- a place I had assumed ranked among the worst on earth. But reading the stories connected me with the humor and humanity of the place.
Somewhere between a 3 and 4. I loved the vivid life in these stories. My favorites were probably the one about the young woman scrambling to live abroad and the unfortunate fellow caught in the e-finance hoax. I'd love to read her next book.
Petina Gappah's short stories brought a smile to my face. Tinged with cynicism towards her country's corrupt ruling elite, her tales show compassion and understanding towards her fellow country-men despite their tribalisms and face-saving strategies in the face of daily death failure and sickness. At times deeply moving, her stories are in fact a depiction of humanity as a whole, realistically portrayed and with a detachment afforded to her by the safe shores of Geneva. There is sneering behind ...more
Ilyhana Kennedy
Petina Gapah writes from the place of the intelligent observer. Unflinching in her portrayals of the lives of the people of Zimbabwe, she conveys with an ascerbic wit the survival strategies, the coping mechanisms in a country riddled with corruption and resentful in dreams of something better.
The stories knit together as a coherent whole. The different characters telling their stories from their personal experience allows layers of the social structures of corruption to be explored from the pla
This is a beautiful collection of beautiful stories by a beautiful writer . . . okay, I need to find a new adjective.

Petina Gappah is an author who I followed online long before I read an actual book by her – she has a fantastic blog and a biting sense of humor. She lives in Harare, Zimbabwe, and has a background in law (if I remember correctly). Also, according to her Blogspot profile, she’s currently working on a novel. This makes me happy.

Back to the beautiful stories. Gappah’s characters hai
Enid Brightman
Taken individually as well as when assembled collectively, the short stories that comprise Petina Gappah's debut collection, An Elegy for Easterly, offer a powerful lament for the Zimbabwe of Gappah's childhood, a Zimbabwe that has all but disappeared behind the tragedies of totalitarianism, hyperinflation, corruption, crippling poverty, misogyny and an unchecked AIDS epidemic. Although, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the suffering that has been experienced in Zimbabwe, all of the stories ar ...more
There are those who write fiction in order to educate, to say "This is how things are done, this is what you must know, read and learn". But in my opinion, education is not the primary aim of fiction. Fiction must, above all, bring the reader a gripping story, characters that we want to follow, to see what happens to them. This is where Petina Gappah excels: first and foremost, she tells great stories, and, almost incidentally, we learn as we read. We learn about Zimbabwe, the rhythms of its lan ...more
Sally Whitehead
The short story isn't normally my genre of choice but I really enjoyed this selection of thirteen of Gappah's stories of life in Zimbabwe, so much so that I read the last seven or so in one weekend sitting.

From the perspective of a satisfying array of characters Mugabe's Zimbabwe is depicted with equal measures of tenderness and bitter irony. Misogyny, political hypocrisy, AIDS, mental health, the poverty caused by crippling inflation are all subtly evoked in these well crafted stories.

The eleg
Trying again for the Amsterdam Waterstone's book club, May 2010 (cancelled last month, boo).

Ugh!!!! Cancelled again!!!!

It was indeed ok (should I have given it two stars? I hate how this rating system is skewed! 'Ok' should be the middle category). The stories were interesting, although none of them imprinted upon me too deeply. They began to blur together after a while as the pages whisked by. Many reviews I've come across note that these stories contain basic human truths, despite the tragic s
Mar 05, 2009 Asha marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A pre-emptive offer was made via agent Claire Paterson at Janklow & Nesbit. The short stories anthology An Elegy for Easterly will be published in the UK first, with an April 2009 launch, coming out in the US in June. The novel The Book of Memory has been scheduled for publication in spring

Both works deal with issues faced by Zimbabweans, including the ongoing hyper-inflation and life under president Robert Mugabe's regime. Lee Brackstone, publishing director for fiction at Faber in the
Fascinating stories about present-day Zimbabwe. The main characters are men, women, children, from all walks of life. Gappah is a great writer. The world she describes is really sad; this book lacks the uplifting faith of Baking Cakes in Kigali. But the book has great power. One especially heart-wrenching story was about a wedding, where the bridegroom clearly had AIDS. But no one wanted to say anything to the bride -- who must have known. Another talks about a man's longing for a "small house" ...more
This is not the greatest fiction I've read, but the Zimbabwean settings and characters are new for me, so the stories turned out very interesting. So much Karanga or other Zimbabwean language is scattered throughout, so the average American reader can't process a significant portion of the content. A knowledge of political names (beyond Mugabe) and historic events would also have given me a richer reading experience. Now I have a better understanding of modern Zimbabwe. I shouldn't have been sur ...more
Ian Mathie
Through this series of short stories Petina Gappah brings modern life in Zimbabwe to life with a keen eye and sharp contrasts. Her graphic illustrations of the problems of living in a country ravaged by the economic incompetence of its arrogant dictator is written with such passion that one can smell the smells, hear the children's shrieks and crying, whilst sharing the frustrations and yearning to escape of the people she describes.
This may be fiction, but it mirrors so closely what is really
This is an outstanding collection of short stories about life in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. The stories range from just before the election of Mugabe through to recent times. Some stories are humourous, some are full of pathos, some explore political or social issues and some are just enjoyable stories. Gappah has revealed Zimbabwe through the lives of a range of unique and individual characters. She has explored her country from the viewpoint of the wealthy and the poor, from the rural and city areas, ...more
Michael Sanderson-green
Short stories are not my genre of choice and this doesn't change that but the writing is good enough for me to seek out her first novel.
Betty Mutimba
Well written.. funny, sarcastic, heartbreaking.. great insight into the reality of Zimbabwe... amazing author!
An interesting collection of short stories that gives a well-presented glance into Zimbabwean conditions today. The stories touch many levels of society, from the well-off and politically-connected to the very poor and lost. I liked some of the stories very much - found them authentic and revealing - a few less so, but I kept on reading right to the end and was glad I did. If you have experience with this remarkable country, this collection will say something to you; and if you don't it will pro ...more
Seun Omo
Good Read, very interesting stories about Zim. An exciting insight into Zimbabwean culture!!!
Harsh and searingly honest portrayals of life and humanity in Zimbabwe.
I have been researching Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean history for about a year now and I have found this collection of short stories - though fictional - the most helpful and insightful of all. In just a few sentences, Gappah is able to recreate the atmosphere of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe. There are many stories here (an Elegy for Easterly, Something nice from London,Cracked Pink Lips of Rosie's Bridegroom) that will forever remain vivid in my mind. They are stark, humorous and dark all at t ...more
Wario Helena

One term; Emotional Rollercoaster
Really well written, but so depressing. There is humour, but it's very bleak, set against a backdrop of corruption, poverty, aids and infidelity. The worst thing for me about this book is that I know someone from Zimbabwe and remember the joy she had in the late 80s/early 90s. She now lives in economic exile in South Africa, because even for a Shona, the situation in Zimbabwe is too hard. This collection of stories reminded me that the people of Zimbabwe have been suffering for more than 20 year ...more
Anja Weber
Since I have been in this country in good period, after so called black revolution..for me this book was so touching as story which is fiction but talking about history.How it is possible to fail down so deeply because of abnormal leader..
Each story is however told very simple but very that you could feel emotions of this people from novels. You could feel because it sound so realistic..and we know that is..
Why is this happening in this world..
This was a nice collection of stories, written in first person, like an observation on life. The writing was good, easy to read, transported the reader to the place where the story was. This writer brings a raw accounting of circumstances her characters find themselves living through. It is a matter-of-fact description (by the character) that I think has to come from someone who's life is closer to survival-at-best than mine is. I recommend the book.
To be called "a fine writer" by J.M. Coetzee is no small accomplishment. I picked up this book unsure whether I would understand the canvas of the stories, mostly set in the author's native Zimbabwe, but came away astonished at the writing's ability to communicate with the reader. If you are at all curious of a human perspective of what rampant inflation, political corruption and disease can do to a country and its people, this is a good book for you.
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Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organisation that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries.
More about Petina Gappah...
Book Of Memory An Elegy for Easterly One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection

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