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Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War…
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Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm

by Lauren St. John

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Rainbow's End is a 1000 acre farm and game preserve in Rhodesia. In the fall of 1978 eleven year old Lauren St. John moves there with her family. This is during the dying, yet bloody, last stages of the Rhodesian Bush War. Rainbow's End isn't just a sprawling farm, it is also the scene of a bloody massacre less than a year earlier. The blood evidence still lingered.
Because Lauren's coming of age years coincided with her time on the Rainbow's End farm and the end of Rhodesia her memoir is part teenage angst biography and part commentary on the the war and its politics. Was it about Communism versus democracy or black against white? What makes Rainbow's End so interesting is Lauren's perception of being white in newly formed Zimbabwe after Independence and the realization she has been loving a war for all the wrong reasons.
There is no doubt of Rhodesia's untamed beauty. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jan 4, 2017 |
This is the author's account of growing up as Rhodesia made the painful transition into Zimbabwe.

St. John juxtaposes beautifully the bucolic splendor, the halcyon idyll, the gentleness of the people with the terrors and brutality of war.

I loved this book and thought it was even better than Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Jul 22, 2012 |
I never learned much about Africa in school. But the countries in Africa have a rich history. Lauren St John tells us about her life in the context of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's history as a nation, particularly during the turbulent years of the civil war.

Lauren is much like I was as a child. A bit of a tomboy, obsessed with horses and animals, and idealizing her father. She spends the majority of her childhood on one of two farms surrounded by the wild and domesticated animals she loves. Meanwhile, the war rages on. She considers it a bit of an adventure, with her dad going off to fight now and then. She compares her life to the romance of the old American west.

But when the war is over, she discovers that the land she loved is not really hers. The values she was brought up with as a child were based on racism and oppression and she has to learn to deal with this new reality.

This memoir is an important look at the Zimbabwe civil war and taught me so much about the history and culture of that country. The book is also a look at childhood; how one can be blinded by devotion to a parent and not see the full truth. The book shows us how even in these dangerous circumstances, children can adapt and still have a blissful childhood. Finally, the book is a love letter to Africa. Her home, her family's home for 4 generations, yet it will never really be hers. ( )
  stacyinthecity | Nov 2, 2010 |
I have been on a real memoir-reading kick lately, and this has been one of the better ones that I've read this year so far. Lauren St. John explores her (somewhat dysfunctional) childhood in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). The book starts out with a violent attack against the previous owners of Rainbow's End, a farm that St. John and her family will eventually inhabit, resulting in the death of several people, including a fellow classmate.

The book then shift gears, back to Lauren's early childhood, before describing how she and her family came to live on Rainbow's End. Although, at times, the place seems to be idyllic, the Rhodesian Bush War is raging around them, and St. John and her family live with the constant fear that something bad will happen to them (except her father, who seems to have no fear of death or injury).

I didn't have any knowledge of Rhodesia before reading this book; in fact, my knowledge of African history in general is rather shameful. But I could almost see the scenery as St. John painted a picture of it with her words. It was a great memoir and kept me interested. ( )
  schatzi | May 19, 2010 |
I enjoyed this autobiography so much. It is also the story of a way of life that no longer exists and the author conveys this part with poignance, but not regret. St. John is aware that the colonial oppression she was born into needed to be replaced, but she is not blind to the irony that the leader who came into power allowed fear, threats and violence to continue.

Lauren St. John lived a delightful childhood that nearly mirrored my daydreams and play: unlimited exotic pets, horses, dogs, wild country to play in, and permissive, glamorous parents. Even the war that overshadows most of this story is like a part of the perfect fantasy. Her dad was a larger than life bona fide hero risking his life with a laugh just like a movie star.

Then in adolescence, along with her own biological changes, almost everything from her nearly perfect childhood crumbles leaving the fantasy in ashes around her. She basically loses everything that had formed her life.

I was swept into her loving descriptions of the land I daydreamed about going to. I was saddened by the destruction that political humans insist on inflicting across such wide areas of our world. But she tells of the desecration without bitterness and her compassionate understanding keeps the reader from sinking into fruitless political ruminations.

This young woman is a life-loving hero herself and what might have destroyed a less resilient person, simply becomes a new direction for her with deeper insights, even wisdom. ( )
  nowthatsoriginal | Sep 4, 2009 |
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Epigraph
The barb in the arrow of childhood's suffering is this: its intense loneliness, its intense ignorance. - Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm
Dedication
For Miss Zeederberg, wherever she is...
And for my father, who I finally understood.
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They weren't supposed to be there.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743286790, Hardcover)

This is a story about a paradise lost. . . . About an African dream that began with a murder . . .

In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, eleven-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slowflowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerrillas, and when Lauren's family settles there, a chain of events is set in motion that will change her life irrevocably.

Rainbow's End captures the overwhelming beauty and extraordinary danger of life in the African bush. Lauren's childhood reads like a girl's own adventure story. At the height of the war, Lauren rides through the wilderness on her horse, Morning Star, encountering lions, crocodiles, snakes, vicious ostriches, and mad cows. Many of the animals are pets, including Miss Piggy and Bacon and an elegant giraffe named Jenny. The constant threat of ruthless guerrillas prowling the land underscores everything, making each day more dangerous, vivid, and prized than the last.

After Independence, Lauren comes to the bitter realization that she'd been on the wrong side of the civil war. While she and her family believed that they were fighting for democracy over Communism, others saw the war as black against white. And when Robert Mugabe comes into power, he oversees the torture and persecution of thousands of members of an opposing tribe and goes on to become one of Africa's legendary dictators. The ending of this beautiful memoir is a fist to the stomach as Lauren realizes that she can be British or American, but she cannot be African. She can love it -- be willing to die for it -- but she cannot claim Africa because she is white.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, 11-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slowflowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerrillas, and when Lauren's family settles there, a chain of events is set in motion that will change her life irrevocably. This memoir captures the beauty and danger of life in the African bush. At the height of the war, Lauren rides through the wilderness on her horse, Morning Star, encountering lions, crocodiles, snakes, vicious ostriches, and mad cows. The constant threat of ruthless guerrillas prowling the land underscores everything, making each day more dangerous, vivid, and prized than the last.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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