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An Elegy for Easterly: Stories

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  417 Ratings  ·  85 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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Apr 13, 2009 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 23, 2009 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

Tim Love
I liked "My Cousin-sister Rambanai" and "Aunt Juliana's Indian" - they brought context and character together convincingly. "An Elegy for Easterly" and "The Annexe Shuffle" show other sides to her writing. After that, diminishing returns set in. Zimbabwe: hyper-inflation, war, lying politicians, Aids, the lure of foreign lands, self-sacrificing parents. These issues form a backdrop to most of the stories, and each story explains the terms. Perhaps it's my imagination, but the later stories (e.g ...more
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
LaYinka Sanni
Feb 10, 2012 LaYinka Sanni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book about a year ago and remember not really 'clicking' with it. I decided to leave it and attempt to re-read it when I was in a better place (emotionally more than anything else). I'm so glad I gave it another chance, because the stories are well-crafted, witty and in some ways homely. Gappah certainly has a gift for short story writing.
Aug 14, 2009 Jeannette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 13, 2011 Alyssa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Deshica Naidoo
my first foray into African literature. Absolutlely fantastic book. Gives one that is not from Zimbabwe a new perspective on the current challenges the country faces
Aug 09, 2014 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2015 Ilyhana Kennedy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
the Black Feather Hideout
"An Elegy for Easterly" is a collection of short stories mainly set in Zimbabwe during the decline of her economy. The various characters that are featured all come with a unique perspective on the situation, and in her unique way, Gappah manages to weave a thread through the collection that binds the stories together seamlessly.
The best short stories are the ones that tease you. Just when you’re about to take another bite, that is the end of the story. There are some I wished would have lasted
Renita D'Silva
Nov 25, 2013 Renita D'Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Will be looking out for more books by this very talented author.
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
Nov 06, 2013 Enid Brightman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2009 Tania rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Fungai Tichawangana
Loved Gappah's sense of detail for people, places and events. It's the most amazing thing to be reading about little green buses from the University of Zimbabwe going up and down Second Street and to remember riding them once. Or about housemaids and weddings and corrupt ministers and know it from having seen it over and over again. There is so much of Zimbabwe's joy, sadness and anger captured in these stories that they need to be preserved as an accompaniment to the history of this time.
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
Mar 10, 2016 Bianca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: set-in-africa
I loved, loved, loved "The Book of Memory" and thought I would love this as well because she is a truly great writer. While I can definitely say her characters are brought to life through her words, the stories just fell flat with me and I was generally left unmoved. It's an easy read though and it does give some insight into life in Zimbabwe.
Jan 21, 2016 Marta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, I can see why it was shortlisted for a prize. Real short stories, suggesting deep deep layers of meaning below the obvious. Real feeling, a sense of the sadness and brutality in some aspects of African life... very moving. Need to read something funny now!
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
Apr 07, 2012 Alesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a collection of short stories. They all take place in modern day Africa. My only complaint with the writing, would be, that there was a lot of words that were used in different languages, and sometimes I lost the drift of the story.
Jul 25, 2009 Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2012 Ian Mathie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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.
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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...

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“A voice reminds us that the land is ours, it will not be taken from us again; the country will never be a colony again. - ‘Something Nice from London” 1 likes
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