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Rotten Row

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  200 ratings  ·  45 reviews
In her accomplished new story collection, Petina Gappah crosses the barriers of class, race, gender and sexual politics in Zimbabwe to explore the causes and effects of crime, and to meditate on the nature of justice. Rotten Row represents a leap in artistry and achievement from the award-winning author of An Elegy for Easterly and The Book of Memory. With compassion and h ...more
Published November 1st 2016 by Faber Faber
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  200 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I do not really know what to say about this book- it is not a bad book by a long stretch - but it definitely was not the book for me. I have been reading this book on and off for about two months now and never even felt compelled to add it to my currently reading shelf.

I have said before that I sometimes struggle with short story collections and with this one I definitely struggled. The whole experience was a bit overwhelming and I found myself always stopping after one story and not feeling li
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
2.5 stars

Reading this book felt like walking into someone else's drugged up dream.

Rotten Row is apparently the street in Harare in which the criminal courts are situated, netherdowells abound. From this premise, Gappah brings the reader an incredibly diverse set of characters, from policeman to ghost, from hairdresser to hangman. Many of the stories are bizarre and frenetic, the meaning lost in my confusion. It felt like the author was shouting at me. Or perhaps that she hadn't considered me at
(3.5) I’d recommend these darkly comic stories set in Zimbabwe to fans of Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen. My three favorites were all from Part I, “Capital”: “The Dropper,” narrated by a hangman; “The News of Her Death,” about a hairdresser who doesn’t turn up not because she’s running late but because she’s the late Kindness; and, best of all, “The Death of Wonder,” which cleverly contrasts atheism and superstition in recounting the strange events that follow a wrongful death. I liked the scri ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an absolute pleasure to read.

A collection of short stories that are not only only complete in themselves but have links and are interconnected throughout all the stories in the book, this book was interesting, rich and nuanced. Every story had it's own voice and style which kept me engaged.

It's always refreshing to have an authentic and layered approach to, in particular, Zimbabwean stories - where the tendency is usually to be shallow and one-sided. Gappah, achieves the perfect ba
Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)
I enjoyed this novel. In Rotten Row, Pettina Gappah writes a collection of short stories which are invariably snapshots into the lives of multiple Zimbabweans both within and out of the country. It is thrilling that most if not all the characters are linked in some way to another character. Gappah's writing is darkly comical and captures beautifully the nuances of African culture and humor.

It is not a book for everyone. Rotten Row is best enjoyed slowly by a reader who enjoys short stories and i
Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji
I am personally not fond of short stories, but I must say there were some really good stories. Unfortunately, I also did not like a couple. I must commend her on the technique of tying the characters and the stories together. Some of the stories and characters fed into each other perfectly well but some connections were too loose. I believe that some of the stories have really strong plots and can easily become novels in their own right.
I began to read Petina Gappah's Rotten Row, which is set in Zimbabwe, as part of my Around the World in 80 Books challenge. I tend to adore short story collections, and whilst I admired the use of a single road in Harare as the geographical setting for each inclusion, this book simply did not work for me. I read the first three stories, all of which seemed quite exaggerated at times in terms of the cultural stereotypes which they portrayed. I did not connect with any of these tales, or feel anyt ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in contemporary Zimbabwe, this critically-lauded book is a collection of inventive short stories whose main characters sometimes recur as extras in others, though without the drawstring of an overall plot. It's politically intelligent, it's vivacious, it paints an against-odds sunny and intriguing world, is never boring, and attains consistent near-success — even rising, in its best chapter, to complete reader-satisfaction. The stories are in the main tragedies of either minor or major signi ...more
I've never read a book that captures Zimbabwean life and society in all it's complexity from race, religion, tribalism, and politics, as clearly as 'Rotten Row'. Reading this, Gappah's background as a lawyer is evident from the structured way she approaches storytelling - often mirroring a case report or submissions made by legal counsel. As a Zimbo coming from a legal background I enjoyed reading this book immensely. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to know what Zimbabwe ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Petina Gappah's series of vignettes is a highly entertaining albeit heartbreaking portrayal of the lives of (fictional) everyday Zimbabweans. I loved how she uses a unique voice for each story and how previously seen characters kept popping up in new stories. There is a sad comic quality to this collection, which I found haunting. ...more
Kiprop Kimutai
The White Orphan was my favorite story. I was left wondering what happened to this child who runs away from his adopted home to seek another more abundant world. Washington’s Wife Decides Enough is Enough was also a thrill, and rib-tickling. Truly delightful. There are really good stories in here. The kind that warm the heart. Though some seem rushed, as if hastily written to fill up the book. There intentions seem unclear.
read the world: Zimbabwe
Lesley Botez
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rotten Row in Harare is unlike the wide, untarred road that runs through London’s Hyde Park. It is a busy thoroughfare in the Zimbabwean capital and home to the criminal courts where the characters in this collection go to willingly or not, to resolve their issues.

This would be grim were it not for Petina Gappa’s sense of humour and passion for her subject. We meet Kindness, a hairdresser who is late not because she should have been here an hour ago but because she is dead. Father Abraham, so n
Allan Taylor
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely well written book about the modern culture of Zimbabwe. Bitter-sweet cameos of real-life situations in Zimbabwe show the writer's intimate awareness of how ordinary Zimbabweans deal with their lot.

For the Zimbabwean reader it is a delight to read, for the outsider it is a powerful expose of modern African life across the continent. The frequent use of the Shona language is not in anyway distracting for the non-shona speaker - in fact it adds a well balanced nuance of meaning and cu
Rotten Row is a collection of short stories by Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah. All the stories have some link to Rotten Row in Harare, some more tenuous than others. But what the stories do all have in common is the theme of justice or injustice. I also loved the way that many of the stories are subtly entwined with others, with names cropping up that you recall from a previous tale.

Most of my favourites were those that looked at Chivanhu (what Nigerians would call juju) particularly, The Deat
These dark little stories, often comic, are set around Rotten Row, Zimbabwe's Criminal Division, and centre on the people who work there, and those who for good reasons and bad pass through. There was much to enjoy. Clever characterisations, clever changes of voice ('From a Town Called Enkeldoorn' is entirely written as comments on a web forum, for instance), and above all, the introduction to each story with a quote from the Bible, written in Shona (I love 'Buku yaMuprofita Jeremia' - that's 'T ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zimbabwe
I bought this book by an author unknown to me after meeting a large, lively family from Zimbabwe in the UK. Rotten Row is not easy reading; some of the stories are liberally interlaced with both English and Shona (or other languages spoken in Zimbabwe.) That was disconcerting and sometimes annoying. These short stories are interlaced - there are references occasionally to characters or events in earlier stories. A lot about the mixture of Christianity with other spiritual beliefs. A lot about vi ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband bought this book for me for Christmas, along with An Elegy for Easterby by the same author, as he thought I would find them interesting.
I am not normally a fan of short stories, as I like something to get my teeth into, but these are unusual in that many of the stories reference each other.
My husband was right and I found these tales of the nature of the relationship between crime and justice in modern Zimbabwe fascinating. In turns dark, sad, touching, humourous, tragic and thought
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great, fresh find! For someone not closely familiar with the culture of Zimbabwe and its local languages, following the stories may seem difficult at first, but this trouble is soon forgotten. The themes of crime and justice are universal, as are the humane characters Gappah describes: they love, they cheat, they laugh and they mourn. Although the topic is rough and the inequality and corruption present in the stories at points extremely frustrating, this book made me laugh more than any other ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, africa
Short stories set in Zimbabwe round a rotating cast of characters - with a mixture of legal and social themes. I enjoyed the linkages between the characters in the stories, and description of city that I dimly remember from a visit in the early 90's. There are lots of asides (in Shona I suppose) that went over my head, and not knowing what a "small house" was left me a bit mystified till I looked it up, so I found it a bit difficult to get into the book at first, but it was worth preserving with ...more
Stephen King
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the reviews, I enjoyed this book of short stories and it's eclectic mixture of characters and settings from Zimbabwe. Any one who works in international development should read 'The old familiar faces' which made me laugh out loud. Some of the experiments with formats (comments on articles and blogs) don't work that well but as an insight into life told through Zimbabwean eyes (albeit elite ones) this isn't half bad. ...more
This took me a long time to read and it's not the books fault.
I just have a hard time reading short stories and feel like they either just pass me by without me paying any attention or wanting more out of a story. Some stories have stuck with me and I found Gappah's writing to be good. I enjoyed being in Harare for most of this book even though the topics changed a lot.
Something flew over my head but I'm still really glad I read it.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
3.5. Hit-or-miss, like most short story collections, and unfortunately, I'd already read the best one, "The News of Her Death." But I liked reading a bunch of stories about people in Zimbabwe. While it delves into the country's history and the effects of the Mugabe regime on people's lives, it also has a lot of dark humor. ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An enjoyable collection of short stories all dealing with crime, in some form or fashion.

Most of the stories are set in Harare and are particularly charming because of the familiarity of the names and places. Gappah also does a masterful job of intertwining some of these accounts together.

This is definitely worth a read, especially if you're a Zimbabwean who grew up in Harare.
Paula Caetano
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of Petina Gappah and so far she hasn't let me down. Hands down for this funny and sad compilation of short stories. They are well written and if your imagination is as crazy as mine, you actually relate and picture what is going on as if you were there. One of my fav authors for sure! ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read one of the stories in this collection in another short story collection and thought it was really witty and well-written, so I looked up the author and found this. The other stories are not of the same calibre.
Jamie Klingler
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great collection of interwoven stories. Serious at points but very very funny at times. Really enjoyed the pace and the different formats.
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful and complex set of subtly interwoven stories taking me to a country I know very little about. Worth rereading
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the political tone of the stories as well as the different ways in which they were executed and the connections between them. Definitely a good read.
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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.

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