Synopses & Reviews
Blue mountains, golden fields, gin and tonics on the terrace--once it had seemed the most idyllic place on earth. But by August 2002, Marondera, in eastern Zimbabwe, had been turned into a bloody battleground, the center of a violent campaign. One bright morning, Nigel Hough, one of the few remaining white farmers, received the news he had been dreading. A crowd of war veterans was at his gates, demanding he hand over his homestead. The mob started a fire and dragged him to an outhouse. To his shock, the leader of the invaders was his familys much-loved nanny Aqui. Get out or well kill you,” she said. There is no place for whites in this country.”
Christina Lamb uncovered the astonishing saga she tells in House of Stone while traveling back and forth to report clandestinely on Zimbabwe. Her powerful narrative traces the history of the brutal civil war, independence, and the Mugabe years, all through the lives of two people on opposing sides. Although born within a few miles of each other, their experience growing up could not have been more different. While Nigel played cricket and piloted his own plane, Aqui grew up in a mud hut, sleeping on the floor with her brothers and sisters. They had cars and went shopping in South Africa. We didnt have food and had to walk an hour each way to fetch water,” she remembers.
House of Stone (dzimba dza mabwe” or Zimbabwe” in Shona) is based on a remarkable series of interviews with this white farmer and black nanny, set against the backdrop of the last British colony to become independent, and the descent into madness of Robert Mugabe, one of Africas most respected nationalist leaders.
"'Two very different lives run in parallel in award-winning British journalist Lamb's riveting account of Zimbabwe's brutal civil war in the 1970s, 'the elation of becoming the last British colony in Africa to win independence [in 1980]... and then the descent into madness.' By alternating chapters from the perspectives of Aqui Shamvi, a poor black woman, and Nigel Hough, a wealthy white man, Lamb (The Africa House) brings both the personal and the political home to the reader. Her level tone and everyday language make the dramatic story all the more compelling. Though Aqui and Nigel are linked for a few years by her employment as his children's nanny, their lives mostly move along very separate paths as black Africans are dispossessed by the colonialist Land Acts, urban black quarters are demolished under President Robert Mugabe's orders and violent squatters occupy white-owned land. Lamb's indictment of Mugabe and his African enforcers and European enablers is complete; however, she achieves remarkable balance and demonstrates an extraordinary capacity to take the reader into the racism- and colonialism-torn worlds of two decent people, neither at home in their native land. (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"A balanced portrait of emotions, ideologies, and awakenings on both sides of the racial divide." Kirkus Reviews
"House of Stone succeedsin some ways better than any other recent book about Zimbabwein describing the trauma of a land claimed by two peoples and the bitter, lingering legacy of colonialism." Christian Science Monitor
"Interesting." Review Essays
Once considered an idyllic place to live, the beautiful land of Eastern Zimbabwe turned into a bloody battleground and center of a violent campaign in August 2002. One morning, white farmer Nigel Hough came face-to-face with a crowd of black war veterans at his gates, who demanded that he hand over his homestead or he would be killed. To his shock, he saw that the leader of this mob was his family’s much-loved nanny, Aqui, who told him, “There is no place for whites in this country.” The intertwined voices of Nigel and Aqui bring immediacy and emotion to the history of the brutal civil war and independence. In riveting interviews, readers learn about two people on opposing sides who were born within a few miles of each other—Nigel, who played cricket and piloted his own plane, and Aqui, who grew up in a mud hut and was often hungry. The personal accounts document the terrible trajectory of the last British colony to become independent, as well as the descent into madness of Robert Mugabe, one of Africa’s most respected nationalist leaders.
About the Author
Christina Lamb is a foreign affairs correspondent for the Sunday Times and the author of The Africa House, The Sewing Circles of Herat, and Waiting for Allah.