Pamela's Reviews > When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
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May 15, 08


The author, Peter Godwin, grew up as a white Zimbabwean, just like Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Lets Go to the Dogs tonight. He brilliantly shares his experience living under Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's dicator since the 1970's.

My problem, however, is how he portrays his parents, and their near-saintliness. They are/were clearly warm people with an impressive degree of moral courage.

But he never addresses the fact that Zimbabwe -- formerly Rhodesia, was a European colony before Mugabe, and suffered accordingly under white rule. He never seems to question why there was so much opposition to the white settlers, who had the best farmland, and (his own parents included), black servants.

While I thouroughly enjoyed Godwin's gorgeous writing, I was frequently frustrated with his reluctance to address the oppression of the blacks, which continues to haunt the country.

Godwin is the better writer, but I preferred Fuller's book. Her Zimbabwe is just as frightening, and beautiful. But she never withdraws judgement throughout her book. Her approach lends greater credibility.

Please note: I'm not arguing that Mugabe's monstrous behavior towards any of his subjects is justifiable. But Zimbabwean independence is a much more complex issue than Godwin acknowleges.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim I'm not sure if "the oppression of the blacks continues to haunt the country". When I spent time there in 1989, I found it to be a surprisingly unhaunted place, with easy interracial relationships, and generally a really cool, friendly vibe, and a confident emerging black middle class in Harare.

That all went to hell in a handbasket over the next ten years or so, and, sorry for you, but history will lay the blame squarely on Mugabe and the ZANU-PF. May not fit with your cosy little picture of binary opposites, but there it is. Life here is more complicated than that.


message 2: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim And maybe you preferred Fuller's book because it doesn't deal with any of this stuff, or what went before, except to relegate it to a menacing presence on the periphery of her family's life. Not knocking her at all. Her book is stunning, but written from a child's perspective (which gives it so much of its power). And that, I'm afraid to say, is what your perspective of Africa is akin to.


message 3: by Makg (new)

Makg Tim wrote: "I'm not sure if "the oppression of the blacks continues to haunt the country". When I spent time there in 1989, I found it to be a surprisingly unhaunted place, with easy interracial relationships,..."

I currently live in Zimbabwe, and this situation is a LOT more complex than people think it is. Resentment towards white rule, especially the land issue, still runs pretty deep. It's not possible to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of one man-that is NEVER the case. I'm not saying that our current rulers are saints or that white rule was the cause of this all, but it's about time colonial rule accepted the hand it played in African problems.


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