Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird

Rate this book
Elise loves the farm that is her home; she loves playing with beetles and chameleons in the garden, buying sweets from the village shop and listening to the stories of spirits and charms told by her nanny, Beauty. As a young white girl in 1990s Zimbabwe, her life is idyllic. Her clothes are always clean and ironed, there is always tea in the silver teapot, gin and tonics are served on the veranda, and, in theory at least, black and white live in harmony.

However this dream-world of her childhood cannot last. As Elise gets older, her eyes are opened to the complexities of adult existence, both through the changes wrought in her family by the arrival of her step-father Steve, and through her growing understanding of the tensions in Zimbabwean society. As Mugabe's presidency turns sour, the privileged world of the white farmers begins to crumble into anarchy.

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird follows Elise as she attempts to make sense of her place in the world while her family struggle to stay afloat in the collapsing economy and escalating horror that surrounds them. As the violence intensifies and the farm invasions begin, Elise and her family are forced to confront difficult choices and the ancient unforgiving ghosts of the past.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Andrea Eames

11 books11 followers
Andrea Eames was born in 1985. She was brought up in Zimbabwe, where she attended a Jewish school for six years, a Hindu school for one, a Catholic convent school for two and a half, and then the American International School in Harare for two years. Andrea's family moved to New Zealand in 2002. Andrea has worked as a bookseller and editor and now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
64 (23%)
4 stars
123 (45%)
3 stars
71 (26%)
2 stars
14 (5%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
139 reviews1 follower
November 10, 2013
Many books have been written about this period in Zimbabwe. On the cover of one was a comment along the lines of: 'Do we really need another book about Zimbabwe?' and it went on to suggest that, in providing a fresh look at what had gone on, the book in question proved a worthy read.

This novel by Andrea Eames does the same. There is a stark frankness at a basic, earthy level. Dialogue rings true. The senses reflect so accurately the land, the scenery, the weather, nuances of behavior. The story could be that of countless people of the time and place. The relationships: social, domestic, racial, much as they were. A fascinating aspect is the interweaving of African superstition and beliefs, which consolidates the story. The accounts of 'land grabbing' by War Vets could not be more authentic. I suspect the book relates closely to the author's personal life... but one can only surmise.

In this book, white Zimbabwean farmers are portrayed as glaringly gauche; this is unsurprising considering the circumstances of the time, and since it it written as through the eyes of a young person. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the people, I feel it is worth a note to elaborate. In a sense, one often encounters a certain naivety in this community, but it underlies a depth of wisdom, integrity, love of the land and great skill and sophistication in their husbandry of it.

Later. I asked a Zimbabwean friend how she would describe the farmers. These are her words: 'On the whole, easy to make friends with, kind, live-and-let-live types. Open hearted, open handed, very entertaining. Hard working with joy in their hearts. Highly intelligent. Very honest in most cases.'

I have banged on about this; but felt it important to try and show another side of the people who loved the country dearly and, for the most, paid dearly.
Profile Image for Megan Stolz.
Author 1 book16 followers
August 2, 2013
It had been a little while (okay, a couple weeks) since I'd had a page turner and I found it in Andrea Eames' book. I'd first heard about it when I attended a panel she was on, at AWP about publishing global fiction. I was interested in the things she said and in what I'd heard about her book, so I bought it online (it hasn't been published in the States, btw, but everything's available on Amazon it seems).

I knew only a little about Zimbabwe and Mugabe before I read this book, but I think this story gave me a human perspective. It's one-sided, of course, since it's a white perspective, but I found it extremely compelling to hear this story from a teenage girl -- I think choosing that character as a narrator was a good choice. There are occasionally paragraphs that sounds more expository, like they'd come from a social studies or history book, but they were short and, since I'm so ignorant, I appreciated a bit of background. Some of the metaphors were a little obvious but they also had ominous weight. And there were quite a few lines that I highlighted -- to be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the writing, since I've also read some less than favorable comments about her as a writer.

All in all, I enjoyed it and would recommend it, especially to anyone who's interested in the general subject matter of the book. It made me think a lot about black/white race relations all over the world; while I was reading, I kept thinking about Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" and J. M Coetzee's "Disgrace".
Profile Image for Manikya Kodithuwakku.
67 reviews2 followers
August 10, 2021
This page-turner of a novel, set in contemporary Zimbabwe, is a complex coming-of-age story narrated by an adolescent. It's evocative of the 'wildness' of the bush and the stifling claustrophobia of closed spaces, exploring both identity and violence in myriad layers and aspects. The tension, as Elise and her family await the inevitable, is palpable and its almost a relief when the War Vets arrive and decree their law. Elise's ambivalence about 'leaving' is posited as a middle ground between the two extremes her mother and stepfather represent, and it helps us understand why each feels the way that s/he does. This is one of the best books I have read this year, and in recent times! The only negative for me is that there was not enough space given to why the War Vets were 'going about doling out violence'; there's nothing here to justify their violence - they merely show up in a herd and wreak havoc to take back land they deem to be rightfully theirs. But full stars, nevertheless!
Profile Image for For Books' Sake.
210 reviews286 followers
January 27, 2011
The Cry of the Go-Away Bird is a powerful coming-of-age novel that deserves a huge audience; this is a story that should be read. Like many coming-of-age novels, Eames has managed to create a character neither that likeable nor aspirational, but defiantly relatable.

This book explores so many different themes, but all so simply and evocatively it’s hard as a reviewer to express my admiration enough. This book is incredibly important as it expresses the horror and fear of people hated because of their race in a clear and accessible way.

(Excerpt from full review of The Cry of the Go-Away Bird at For Books' Sake)
2 reviews
February 25, 2014
I thought this book realistically portrayed the life of a white teenage girl and her family during the years that Mugabe rose to power in Zimbabwe. I appreciated the perspective of a white Zimbabwean and how this was her country but that she felt she no longer belonged and had to leave because of the colour of her skin.
Profile Image for Rigatoni Baloney.
154 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2014
I love books about African farm life be it Botswana or Zimbabwe, and this book was everything I wanted.
Profile Image for Dorien.
250 reviews4 followers
June 5, 2018
De schettervogel of toerako wordt ook wel go-away bird genoemd en is in Zimbabwe een veelvoorkomende, onopvallende, grijze vogel met een spookachtige, hoge roep: gowee, gowee! (ga weg, ga weg!). Elise hoort hem dagelijks.

In De roep van de schettervogel volgen we een paar jaar uit het leven van vertelster Elise. Aan het begin van het boek is ze twaalf, aan het einde veertien. Het verhaal begint rond het jaar 2000 en speelt zich af in het Zimbabwe onder bewind van dictator Robert Mugabe. Voor de blanke Elise is het leven dan nog een grote idylle. Haar vader is gestorven toen ze heel klein was maar ze mist hem eigenlijk niet. Ze leeft met haar moeder een volmaakt leventje in een huis op het terrein van de boerderij waar haar moeder een baan heeft, omringd door bediendes en andere werknemers. Elise komt niets te kort, er is voldoende eten en drinken en ze speelt vaak met (zwarte) kinderen uit de buurt. Zwart en blank leven in harmonie met elkaar, in ieder geval op het eerste gezicht.

Maar dan kantelt Elise’s wereld. Mugabe’s volgelingen beginnen met de boerderijbezettingen, verjagen de blanke boeren en beginnen te plunderen en te moorden. Haar moeder besluit te gaan samenwonen met Steve en ze verhuizen naar een huis op het terrein van de veiliger gelegen tabaksboerderij van Mark Cooper, waar ze allebei werk hebben gevonden.
In eerste instantie dringt de ernst van de situatie niet door tot de naïeve Elise. Ze sluit vriendschap met de zoon van Cooper, en op school met het zwarte Shona-meisje Kurai.
Naarmate het verhaal vordert raakt Elise steeds beter doordrongen van de ellendige situatie waarin het land verkeert. En van de verschillen tussen zwart en blank. Ze begint te begrijpen dat niet iedereen gelijk is, en dat ook niet iedereen hetzelfde denkt en vindt.
In Zimbabwe wonen was net zoiets als een lastige jongere broer of zus hebben. Het land was luidruchtig, storend en onbeschoft. Het eiste al je aandacht op, vrat energie, verpestte gezinsuitstapjes en gesprekken aan tafel, en ’s nachts lag iedereen te piekeren hoe het verder met hem moest. Al onze problemen draaiden om de problemen van Zimbabwe.

Als het echt gevaarlijk wordt en meer en meer blanken Zimbabwe verlaten en naar Groot-Brittannië, Nieuw-Zeeland en Australië gaan, verkast het gezin van Elise naar een hotel in Harare. Steve en haar moeder blijven wel werken op de boerderij, overdag zijn er genoeg collega’s op het terrein, maar ze durven niet meer in hun huis te slapen.

Het boek springt van de hak op de tak, daar moet je een beetje aan wennen. Maar het past heel goed bij gedachtewereld van zo’n jong meisje en de situatie waarin ze zich bevindt.
Ik merkte dat mijn gedachten rondfladderden als een vliegende mier, heel even op iets landden, om vervolgens naar iets anders over te springen, bijna zonder een voetafdruk achter te laten.

Auteur Andrea Eames is zelf opgegroeid in Zimbabwe, en heeft de boerderijbezettingen meegemaakt. Het verhaal bevat dan ook autobiografische elementen. In Nederland zijn bijzonder weinig romans over Zimbabwe verkrijgbaar, zeker niet over de tijd van de boerderijbezettingen. Alleen al daarom is De roep van de schettervogel de moeite waard om te lezen. Daarnaast is het mooi geschreven en goed vertaald, met zorgvuldig gekozen bewoordingen.
Profile Image for Jane Connor.
142 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2019
Elise loves the farm that is her home; she loves playing with beetles and chameleons in the garden, buying sweets from the village shop and listening to the stories of spirits and charms told by her nanny, Beauty. As a young white girl in 1990s Zimbabwe, her life is idyllic. Her clothes are always clean and ironed, there is always tea in the silver teapot, gin and tonics are served on the veranda, and, in theory at least, black and white live in harmony.

However this dream-world of her childhood cannot last. As Elise gets older, her eyes are opened to the complexities of adult existence, both through the changes wrought in her family by the arrival of her step-father Steve, and through her growing understanding of the tensions in Zimbabwean society. As Mugabe's presidency turns sour, the privileged world of the white farmers begins to crumble into anarchy.

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird follows Elise as she attempts to make sense of her place in the world while her family struggle to stay afloat in the collapsing economy and escalating horror that surrounds them. As the violence intensifies and the farm invasions begin, Elise and her family are forced to confront
December 4, 2022
Great book that really puts you in the atmosphere of what it was like to live in Zimbabwe during in the period after the Bush Wars. The book is written from the perspective of a little girl as she grows up and sees everything in her world change and she start to realize the true extent of divide in her country. This gives a very interesting 3rd person perspective to the story that gives glimpse of what the situation was like through neutral eyes. The ending was very good, and I enjoyed this book all the way through.
Profile Image for Anna Meryt.
19 reviews
March 17, 2019
This book reads like a Memoir. The story is so close to many of the events that happened to the white farmers of Zimbabwe, it makes painful reading because so much is true.
In fact if anything I was d8ssapointed at the end if the book that it was represented as fiction.
It's a good story, well told but fiction? Most of the backstory is most certainly not.... even the front story must be based closely on real peope/events. of the time. I know, I was born there.
Profile Image for Luisa A..
Author 2 books3 followers
September 20, 2019
Evocative and engaging, I found this book an increasingly tense and powerful read. Knowing little about Zimbabwe, it was also a fascinating depiction of that country, its troubles and its people. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Thanh.
35 reviews
October 28, 2021
Wanted the story to last a bit longer, but for a debut I really think Andrea did well on this one. Great thing is that she included elements (things she saw/heard/were happening/the back then 'current' state of things) of her time in Zimbabwe. Would consider reading more of her work.
28 reviews
August 31, 2021
A young persons view of the troubled times in Zimbabwe when Mugabe was losing the plot!!
Profile Image for Jean.
342 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2022
I didn’t’ expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Elise was wonderfully portrayed from childhood innocence through to adolescence. I had always been aware of the fraught political situation in Zimbabwe having had family who fled ‘Rhodesia’ in the 1960’s before it became Zambia and was starting to undergo political unrest. Later I knew a friend who spoke of his elderly farming father sleeping with a gun under his pillow! The story of colonialism by Britain never shows us in a good light and in Zambia the original people were the Bushmen who were ousted by mainly the Shona tribe, as always a complex situation and one worth studying. The author portrayed the friendships, natures and then fear experienced by everyday Zambians, no matter what colour beautifully.
Profile Image for Garry.
181 reviews11 followers
July 29, 2012
Elise loves the Zimbabwe that she calls home, but it is increasingly difficult to be a white. The privileged position of her childhood has eroded, and rather quickly. Her colour is a liability, and a dangerous one. Her beloved country has become a dangerous place, and it is only bravado that prevents her family from fleeing. Have they left it too late?

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird gets an easy three stars from me. With a solid story that unfolds steadily, with increasing tension, it's a book that was easy to read and difficult to put down. I particularly enjoyed the language, which is liberally peppered with Zimbabwe accents.

Andrea Eames is a young author (still in her 20's), raised in Zimbabwe and now living in Texas. I don't know how autobiographical the story is, but it reads with the authority of a personal account. And this was a bit of a problem for me - it got a little bit too personal at times.

As much as I enjoyed spending time with Elise, there a few too many 'too much information' moments for me. Like the time that she got her period, and there was blood on her panties just as she was climbing a ladder to paint a set for the school play, and one of the school bullies saw, and.... I'm sorry, I didn't enjoy that chapter at all....

I think this novel could have been an even greater triumph if it had been a bit more focused. There were a few elements that distracted from the main story. There was a teenage crush that didn't go anywhere, a coming-of-age story that petered out, a spiritual encounter with an ancestor's ghost that seemed completely out of place. It was also fairly blunt - there wasn't much subtlety about the imagery.

All of this detracted from the main event. Fortunately, the main event was sufficiently captivating that it wasn't a fatal flaw. I did enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Kathleen Dixon.
3,555 reviews59 followers
October 24, 2015
I elected to read this book as it gained the most votes in the Around the World Challenge - country beginning with Z - in Book-Loving Kiwis. I like to read books others I know (or sort-of know) are reading, and I've been interested in the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe story since I was a child. I've also followed and read both fictional and non-fiction accounts of other troubled countries in Africa.

As an account of a girl in Zimbabwe in recent history, this book gives lots of description that evokes the colours and the smells and the way of life. Excellent! As a novel, I didn't enjoy it so much because it seemed to me that there was too much information, too much detail. Also, while there are some fascinating inserts about ghosts and different understandings of gods and such, they didn't go anywhere and so were superfluous to the plot. This happened with various other items which were there, I guess, to give a whole picture of the narrator and her life, but which teased me with a suggestion they would lead into something else, but didn't.

Having said that, Eames has done a great job of giving us the growing understanding of the severity of the political manouverings by Mugabe and we can really imagine ourselves there as a teenage girl moving from her childish viewpoint to the beginnings of an adult comprehension. Very good.

All told, this is worth reading, and Eames is an author worth looking out for in the future.
Profile Image for Annemarie.
133 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2016
Bij sommige boeken die ik gelezen heb, is mijn mening over het boek direct helder. Bij De roep van de schettervogel heb ik dat niet.

Enerzijds vond ik het boek mooi. Niet bijzonder mooi, maar gewoon mooi. Tijdens het lezen had ik momenten dat ik gecharmeerd was door de manier van schrijven: de situatie in Zimbabwe, het rassenverschil, werd duidelijk neergezet maar niet dramatisch. Daardoor las het prettig, leerde ik wat over de situatie daar, maar was het nog wel luchtig.
Anderzijds, en dan vooral het einde, vond ik dat luchtige en niet diepgaande juist een minpunt. Ik miste een betere uitwerking over hoe de Veteranen werkten, hun aanvallen deden, meer informatie over de beweegredenen, maar ook over hoe de blanken ermee omgingen. Daar was het me juist te globaal en oppervlakkig.

Het luchtige en minder diepgaande in het eerste deel van het boek vind ik passend. Het geeft een manier van leven weer op een luchtige manier.Ik kon me wel met de hoofdpersonage identificeren, maar ook niet heel goed. Het tweede deel van het boek had wat mij betreft beter uitgewerkt mogen worden, meer connectie met de personages en een betere uitwerking van de situatie in Zimbabwe.

Ik denk dat ik over het algemeen vind dat het een oké boek is, maar dat het boek wel een afstand behoudt met de lezer (of in ieder geval met mij) waardoor het luchtig was, maar tegelijkertijd werd dit in de tweede helft van het boek een gemis.
Profile Image for Mardel Fehrenbach.
331 reviews7 followers
February 23, 2012
A novel written with powerfully evocative prose which I wish I had written about earlier, when I remembered the details more clearly. It had been recommended to me as a good coming-of-age novel, and I suppose it is, but it did not really strike me very strongly in that sense, even though it is a powerful novel about a young girl whose world is being ripped apart as she is growing up. But I didn't see Elise, the main character as really growing up in this novel. She is a young girl trying to come to terms with a world she does not understand, and although that is a part of the coming-of-age theme, Elise is still a girl here, a girl with moments of profound wisdom, the kind of sharp wisdom girls have when they are on the cusp of verging into adulthood, and which they all too often loose. When Elise leaves Africa she is still in the midst of this process of trying to find understanding and she is still a girl in waiting. I do think this is one of the strengths of the novel. One gets the sense of it being a remininscense, as if it is being told by an older Elise, looking back on her younger self, looking back with yearning and sadness and love.

Profile Image for Fortunata.
40 reviews
March 27, 2014
I enjoyed this book and in fact found it hard to put down. Apart from boss farmer Mr Cooper who epitomes a white man's love and commitment to African land but who ultimately and most likely unjustly pays the price for sins of the previous generations, I did not find much to redeem or likeable in the characters of the other players. This only served to make the story more believable while the shadow of uncertainty and fear hangs silently over every page. The fear is gripping and the understandably pathetic attempts of the white farmers to cajole and negotiate with the land grabbers rings sadly true for those desperate to retain both their identity and their livelihood.
As an immigrant myself I was left questioning at what point can you ever truly belong to a land? How many generations must pass before you can be more than the 'other'?
Profile Image for zespri.
604 reviews8 followers
September 23, 2011
Elise is a white Zimbabwean living an idyllic child's life. Open spaces and room to explore, with an adored maid to look after her. Elise moves easily between her two worlds, until her countries racial tensions start to spill over into her gentle world.

The book then becomes a tragic statement of the unravelling racial situation in Zimbabwe, and Elise is thrown into a life she neither understands or comprehends. As such, it is a very interesting read, and I found the insights and descriptions of Zimbabwe as seen through the eyes of a white pre-teen very enlightening and interesting.
Profile Image for Ann.
148 reviews3 followers
September 11, 2012
Such an interesting book. Like so many of us living here in NZ. We know several people who have moved here from Zimbabwe. I have always wondered why some people stayed as things got so dangerous and out of control, while others packed up and left at the first signs of trouble. I guess each persons reasons for staying or going are part of who they are and their own unique personality. Such a sad story.
Profile Image for Rosie.
34 reviews2 followers
March 15, 2013
I enjoyed this book, but got none of the ground-breaking prose other reviews and the gushing quotes on the back cover led me to believe would be on every page. It's a good story, it's reasonably well written, I could empathise with the character's situation, and it was a good read - I'd look out Andrea Eames again - but I don't think it's as clever as the publisher would like it to be.
Profile Image for Sally Whitehead.
208 reviews6 followers
September 13, 2013
A coming of age novel which follows a white girl growing up in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. I should imagine this would be an eye opening and memorable novel to young adult readers, but sadly it falls short somehow and neither reaches its full potential as a real bildungsroman or as a depiction of the political tensions and horror surrounding the invasion of White farmsteads. Ian Holden's "Unfeeling" is a far more powerful, and rightly disturbing, narrative of this time.
Profile Image for Amy Paulussen.
40 reviews52 followers
March 24, 2014
A kind-of coming of age story. Fascinating to read about someone about my age, going through something so far removed from my own experience - especially, considering, our paths later crossed and ran parallel for a while! This book isn't auto-biographical, but much is based on the author's experience of living in Zimbabwe at a volatile time. A unique and moving story.
18 reviews
May 10, 2011
Just started this, it has had great write ups. Really excited to read what it is like.

I am half way through this book and it is fantastic. It is a must for anyone from Southern Africa - just the descriptions, scenery and the 'lingo' used is just classic. I am loving this book.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 1 book46 followers
November 5, 2010
This book is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. Andrea Eames is a weaver of words, I can't wait to read more things from her!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.