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

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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 guerr 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 claimAfrica because she is white.


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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 guerr 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 claimAfrica because she is white.

30 review for Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I really enjoyed this book. It never drags. It has humor. It captures the author's childhood and development into adulthood movingly and honestly. How did the Whites in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, see their land? Yes, they considered it their land, which is a bit hard to comprehend for those readers who haven't been in their shoes. For four generation the author's family lived in what was before Rhodesia, Ian Smith's Rhodesia. They loved that land, not just its physical attributes but also the entir I really enjoyed this book. It never drags. It has humor. It captures the author's childhood and development into adulthood movingly and honestly. How did the Whites in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, see their land? Yes, they considered it their land, which is a bit hard to comprehend for those readers who haven't been in their shoes. For four generation the author's family lived in what was before Rhodesia, Ian Smith's Rhodesia. They loved that land, not just its physical attributes but also the entire life style. Then came the wars, the parting from the United Kingdom, the birth of Zimbabwe and the civil wars. Then Mugabe's rule and its terrors which continue still today. The period covered, in this book, is primarily the 70s and the 80s. I am stumped; how do I explain, as the author has so well explained, that life? Beauty. Freedom. Danger. Life is lived on the edge, and these people adore this life, even when it becomes war. They have a love for that place, their land. This too I have a hard time comprehending. I have moved and lived in different countries. This concept of only one home is a hard thing for me to understand, but the author did make me understand. It was their land. They were fighting for their land .....and they didn't see themselves as racists. The author was born in December 1966. She was just a kid growing up. It was boys and the pop culture and her horses and pets that interested her, NOT politics. That was above her head, until later when she finally realized that she too was culpable. She grew up during the Rhodesian wars. This molded every aspect of her life, but she wasn't the one deciding, she was just a kid. So don't read this book to learn about the history of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. The history is here but only as it shaped her life. It did shape her life. Very dramatically! Her parents were constantly fighting. That shaped her life too. Both her relationships to her parents and sister and her country are honestly portrayed. I admire that. This is no novel. Life is messy and nothing is simple. Who is right and who is wrong? Or are we all both right and wrong? This is a story about a dysfunctional family, living with privilege and in a war zone. After these years we share with the author no neat tied up package of understanding is delivered, but isn't life really liked that? The writing is exceptional. The landscape, the animals, the fear, boarding school kids, all of it is wonderfully described. I don't like the word “described” because that puts a distance between the reader and the words in the book. Nope, you are right there experiencing what she experienced through beautiful, funny and heart-wrenching lines. OK, for the filthy minded, this joke stuck with me: Near the toilet, there was a sign or something. It read: "Stand closer. It's shorter than you think!" Do you love books about animals? Then you have to read this book. Horses and warthogs and giraffes and ostriches, snakes galore and of course numerous dogs and cats. Most were family pets. Rainbow's End is where they lived, outside Salisbury on a large reserve which her father managed....when he wasn't fighting in the wars. Salisbury is now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Several members of the family that lived in Rainbow's End before her family were murdered by terrorists in the war. This is the place that came to be her home. The book starts with that brutal killing and from there you are drawn deeper and deeper into the world of her childhood and family. Horror and beauty and freedom, but for whom? The narration by Biance Amato was beautiful. I love the dialect. She reads slowly, so you can stop and think about the significance of the lines. You have time to laugh at the humor. I highly recommend this book. You glimpse another way of living, chock-full of beauty and danger, hardships and pleasure. It honestly presents the wonder and the horror of her childhood.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leo Passaportis

    I really enjoyed this book, not least of all because it related to me on so many levels: as someone who grew up in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia); the familiarity of the places and things she mentions and the power of nostalgia; the conflicts of the heart, especially the dual sense of belonging and not belonging; and even, but not especially, the mention of a relative of mine who ran a hotel in Gadzema. This is a good and honest memoir. I really appreciated the author for having done that. There we I really enjoyed this book, not least of all because it related to me on so many levels: as someone who grew up in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia); the familiarity of the places and things she mentions and the power of nostalgia; the conflicts of the heart, especially the dual sense of belonging and not belonging; and even, but not especially, the mention of a relative of mine who ran a hotel in Gadzema. This is a good and honest memoir. I really appreciated the author for having done that. There were times when I felt uncomfortable with the names given to black people - words I knew were taboo - but she wasn't using them as labels, only to illustrate how some sectors of the white community behaved. Her emotions of fervent patriotism, subsequent disillusionment, followed later by renewed optimism and hope (in that order) ring so true for so many of us who grew up there even after the end of Rhodesia (I was born right at the end, 1979). This is summed up best in the final chapter where she writes: 'And now we had Mugabe, with his mad eyes and murderous motorcade and the CIO and stories of what happened if you took a wrong turn at State House, and the genocide and so many dead for nothing. Now someone else had been sold a dream and look how they had been repaid. And I didn't know what the answer was but it wasn't that; it wasn't living in fear.' Leo Anthony UK

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Outstanding girlhood memoir of Rhodesian homestead in the late 1970's- early 1980's. Animals, plants, foodstuffs, human traits, landscapes of river and bush- it is over the top exuberance. Told in smooth and lyric language and with an intensely joyful and yet nervy reality. African patterns and African life for a 4th generation Rhodesian whose staples and standards eventually, and quickly, disappear as Zimbabwe is born. Truthful and superb beauty in her word art within this novel too. One of my f Outstanding girlhood memoir of Rhodesian homestead in the late 1970's- early 1980's. Animals, plants, foodstuffs, human traits, landscapes of river and bush- it is over the top exuberance. Told in smooth and lyric language and with an intensely joyful and yet nervy reality. African patterns and African life for a 4th generation Rhodesian whose staples and standards eventually, and quickly, disappear as Zimbabwe is born. Truthful and superb beauty in her word art within this novel too. One of my favorite lines was "he was so important that when he moved through the room the air moved out of his way." Her sharp detail without becoming wordy concisely paints quite an "all 5 senses" picture. But within adversity, tragedy or somewhere in between, still- what's coming through loud and clear is her intense joyful aliveness. Wonderful, enchanting read!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    My mom has always told me stories of her country. She tells me about when her dad would come back in a hyena (military vehicle) from the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of when her dad tossed pamphlets from a plane and hit someone on the head on accident during the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of the many drills they had so they would be safe. I relate so much to this book, and that is one thing I love about this book. A little girl moves with her parents and sister,Lisa to Gadze My mom has always told me stories of her country. She tells me about when her dad would come back in a hyena (military vehicle) from the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of when her dad tossed pamphlets from a plane and hit someone on the head on accident during the Rhodesian war. She tells me the story of the many drills they had so they would be safe. I relate so much to this book, and that is one thing I love about this book. A little girl moves with her parents and sister,Lisa to Gadzema, Rhodesia. Her mum, little sister, and her would of rather stayed in Cape Town, South Africa but her dad wants to go to Rhodesia because of being the army. Later on the adventure continues when they move to Rainbow's End, her aunt's farm. This is the story of Lauren's life in Rhodesia (and eventually Zimbabwe) with her family. Seeing as this is a memoir the experience in Rainbow's End through Lauren St.John is so realistic and you feel like you are actually there with the warthogs, giraffe, and the many other animals. I really appreciated this book because of how it relates to me and how I can understand the Rhodesian war so much more when I have more than one perspective. This was a wonderful book and it gave you great images of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. The point to this book is for the author, Lauren St.John to look back at the Rhodesia days and remember her event packed childhood. It is to show an audience, who knows very little of Rhodesia and show them through a child's eyes what the experience was like.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    About 10 years ago, Lauren St. John began publishing a series of children's novels - the first of which was titled The White Giraffe. They featured an 11 year old girl named Martine, recently orphaned, who goes to live with her grandmother on a game reserve in Africa. They are captivating books, full of the magic and beauty of the African landscape and its storied wildlife; they are also mysteries, touched by the darkness of human greed and treachery. In this memoir, St. John reveals the real-li About 10 years ago, Lauren St. John began publishing a series of children's novels - the first of which was titled The White Giraffe. They featured an 11 year old girl named Martine, recently orphaned, who goes to live with her grandmother on a game reserve in Africa. They are captivating books, full of the magic and beauty of the African landscape and its storied wildlife; they are also mysteries, touched by the darkness of human greed and treachery. In this memoir, St. John reveals the real-life inspiration behind her fiction. Born in Rhodesia of parents whose families were intertwined with the earliest colonial history of Africa, St. John (not her birth name, which was actually Dutch and "unpronounceable" in her own words) considered herself to be African. But like many white Africans, her family found themselves on the wrong side of history when Mugabe's political party (ZAPU, later ZANU) took power and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. This memoir has many strands to it, and one of them is the Rhodesian War and how it affected the author's childhood. It was a complicated war with many shifting alliances, and although St. John does her best to explain it, I doubt it will sink in for many readers unless they already have some context for understanding. The memoir is really a coming-of-age story in which boarding school, the author's love of animals and the parents' unhappy marriage take more or less equal roles. All of this is complicated by the turbulent political landscape. The final strand of the book is St. John's attempt to come to terms with her family's place in this war-torn country. The author spends a lot of time describing her childhood mentality - how deeply she was brainwashed into believing in Rhodesia as ruled by white colonials - and then, after independence, how her belief systems broke down completely. Last summer I read Alexandra Fuller's brilliant memoir Let's Don't Go to the Dogs Tonight, and in many ways this memoir covers the same territory. The two authors are much the same age and there are many parallels between their stories. Although Fuller's memoir has the edge in vivid writing, St. John tells a more precisely detailed, sequential story. There is very much the sense that the dangers of the external landscape - both natural and manmade - are not relieved by the safety of homelife. If anything, the volatility of homelife (fuelled by way too much alcohol, mental illness (Fuller) and infidelity (St. John) is more damaging. Of course, the latter had very much to do with the the former, but the child's understanding was only partially aware of this fact. St. John is exactly the same age as I am, and it was interesting to note how we grew up with so many of the same pop culture references - despite having hugely different childhoods by any other measure. She did keep diaries, which she refers to at various times, but I was hugely impressed by her command of precise details. Despite the turbulence and, at times, intense unhappiness of her childhood, she is clearly still in love with Rainbow's End - the farm and game reserve which was her home. It made my own suburban childhood, so safe and happy, seem quite dull by comparison.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    The edition that I read had a much better cover than the ones on offer here. Less melodramatic in overall composition but still with the basic theme of a child with a weapon. Whilst this covers a similar era to the books written by Ms Fuller, it covers a slightly earlier period with the author being slightly older to boot. Viewing the same events from a slightly older perspective (um, my own), I have to say that I think the author was absolutely spot on with how she described the fervour of the The edition that I read had a much better cover than the ones on offer here. Less melodramatic in overall composition but still with the basic theme of a child with a weapon. Whilst this covers a similar era to the books written by Ms Fuller, it covers a slightly earlier period with the author being slightly older to boot. Viewing the same events from a slightly older perspective (um, my own), I have to say that I think the author was absolutely spot on with how she described the fervour of the total belief in the rightness of what was going on at the time. So too with the evocative descriptions of the bush and the accurate dialogue made me howl with laughter. It brought back such good memories and now I know where I have got the terrible habit of making 4-5 contingency plans for a specific event. It seems that you can't write a memoir without having some dreadful experiences with ones parents. Both Fuller and St John weaved this into their various stories. I have to admit that I find this aspect less appealing than the other 'plot lines'. I am not sure how someone with absolutely no understanding of the situation or of the African bush would be able to fully commit to this book as many of the layers will be lost on them - as will the mention of all the specifically Rhodesian treats - such as Aromat - and just how incredibly special they were!! I am not referring to intelligence or age or anything like that - simply that it was a unique situation and an unique time - one that I still believe I was fortunate enough to experience. But - oh so sad. And still the song echoes "and we'll keep them north of the Zambezi till that river's running dry." Highly and definitely recommended to those of the normal crew that recognise ""Si Ye Pambili"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    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, th 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    What was it about this book that captured my curiosity so much that it made the cut onto a library order for young adults out of hundreds of competitors? Was it my fascination with Africa? Was it the title? Was it the cover? Perhaps my curiosity was piqued by a quick skim of the review quotes. I found myself anxiously looking forward to reading the next installment. I loved the author's descriptions, insights, narrative flow, and her skill with words. I loved this book. It was also interesting re What was it about this book that captured my curiosity so much that it made the cut onto a library order for young adults out of hundreds of competitors? Was it my fascination with Africa? Was it the title? Was it the cover? Perhaps my curiosity was piqued by a quick skim of the review quotes. I found myself anxiously looking forward to reading the next installment. I loved the author's descriptions, insights, narrative flow, and her skill with words. I loved this book. It was also interesting reading an account of adjusting to a new culture in the aftermath of a racial civil war and realizing all that has been missed or not seen and lost and the struggle to mend and move on. All this is entwined with the family emotional and personality landscape and the journey to childhood's end. This complexity is handled skillfully, sensitively, honestly, and beautifully. Thank you Lauren St. John. Review Quotes: ""Rainbow's End" is a lyrical, haunting story of family, love, and loss in a land as dangerous as it is beautiful."-- Jeannette Walls, author of "The Glass Castle" Review Quotes: "Striding tall through Lauren St John's gorgeously written memoir is her father, and chapter after chapter their relationship is untangled and celebrated. Joy and a hunger for life infuse this book -- whether St John is writing about the harrowing years of Rhodesia's civil war, her childhood adventures in the bush, or the breaking apart of her family. "Rainbow's End" is a most generous and wise book."-- Lisa Fugard, author of "Skinner's Drift" Publisher Marketing: 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. 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Since spending the summer of 1985 in Keny, E. Africa, I have had a continuing fascination and heart tug for the turbulent history of African countries. This memoir of Lauren St. John's upbringing in Rhodesia durning the civil war that turned Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and self-rule was captivating. She tells of growing up with a father who loved nature and land and the wild nature of Africa and a mother who longed to travel and see other countries and who loved the finer things in life. The resulta Since spending the summer of 1985 in Keny, E. Africa, I have had a continuing fascination and heart tug for the turbulent history of African countries. This memoir of Lauren St. John's upbringing in Rhodesia durning the civil war that turned Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and self-rule was captivating. She tells of growing up with a father who loved nature and land and the wild nature of Africa and a mother who longed to travel and see other countries and who loved the finer things in life. The resultant family conflict and tension was a constant in Lauren's life and led her to often take her horse and ride and ride into the acres of wild bush that was Rainbow's end. She shared her father's love of Rhodesia and love of wild untamed nature and animals and was a consummate tomboy ! Underlying all of her growing up years, however, was not only family tension but the political tension brewing in a country trying to come out from under colonial rule and establish itself as a truly independent nation run by Africans. Rhodesia's independence came in 1980 after a bloody civil war that left thousands dead ... including many of the St. Lauren's white rancher friends. Whites fled Rhodesia by the thousands following independence and the establishment of the ruthless dictator Robt. Mugabe as head of the new Rhodesian government. But Errol St. Lauren refused to be chased off his land and his country. Lauren St. John found herself disillusioned following the end of the war for independence as she began to grasp the racial injustices that colonial rule had set in place and under which she had grown up and had accepted as "normal". She tells of trying to begin to understand the struggle of the country to right these past wrongs ... and to understand what could cause Africans to commit the awful atrocities that Mugabe's tribal warfare brought to the newly independent country. One of the greatest heartaches of her young adult life was in realizing that for her, she would always be seen by Africans as a European ... even though her own family history went back four generations in the African country of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe ... and even though she would always consider herself to be African.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alistair

    this only buying books with a dog on the cover has proved an infallible method of choosing good books i loved this from start to finish . the memoir of a young girl growing up in Rhodesia before during and after it turned into Zimbabwe is both full of the smells , sounds and light of Africa but full of the casual death , racism and brutality that accompanies it this is no bleeding heart liberal tale , far from it , but as the writer grows up and leaves her very own Garden of Eden , she realises this only buying books with a dog on the cover has proved an infallible method of choosing good books i loved this from start to finish . the memoir of a young girl growing up in Rhodesia before during and after it turned into Zimbabwe is both full of the smells , sounds and light of Africa but full of the casual death , racism and brutality that accompanies it this is no bleeding heart liberal tale , far from it , but as the writer grows up and leaves her very own Garden of Eden , she realises that her parents' marriage was far from ideal , they get divorced later in the book , that she knew nothing about black life even though she was in daily and close contact with them and that Olivia Newton John was in fact crap .She also laments the passing of a life of innocent adventure with a pet giraffe at the bottom of the garden and sailing a home - made raft made from oil drums on a crocodile rich lake . her father was in fact rather poor and not from the land owning classes which probably fuelled his continual anger at everything .her discovery of his infidelities is shattering as is his drinking but he would have taken a bullet for them and there is some understanding at the end when the family splits up but a lot of loneliness and rage . The period of the war was the happiest for everyone it seems .it was exciting and when it is all over and Zimbabwe goes from breadbasket to basket case , the family disintegrates and the writer leaves Rhodesia , you know life will never be the same nor as happy for a lot of those involved in this happy/sad story . Almost as good as " don't let's not go to the dogs tonight " by Alexandra Fuller another memoir of the same place and period . of my god " dogs " again . a curious footnote is that the writer became the golf correspondent of the Sunday Times and has written a book about Steve Earle . Bizaare to say the least .

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Rainbow's End is a beautiful and haunting memoir of a young girl coming of age in war-torn Rhodesia. At the age of eleven, Lauren St. John moved with her family to a farm where a series of brutal murders had taken place, and taken the life of one of Lauren's classmates. Young Lauren straddled a world where she was struck by the beauty and love of the place where she lived, and at the same time feared for her life. Whether it was the "terrs" (terrorists) who threatened the white farmers, crocodil Rainbow's End is a beautiful and haunting memoir of a young girl coming of age in war-torn Rhodesia. At the age of eleven, Lauren St. John moved with her family to a farm where a series of brutal murders had taken place, and taken the life of one of Lauren's classmates. Young Lauren straddled a world where she was struck by the beauty and love of the place where she lived, and at the same time feared for her life. Whether it was the "terrs" (terrorists) who threatened the white farmers, crocodiles in the nearby river, or huge snakes that seemed to inhabit every square inch of the farm, danger was lurking everywhere. She was growing up and trying to find her place in a world which soon decided that, despite four generations of living in Africa, whites had no place there. One of the things that really struck me about this book, was that Lauren St. John is about my own age. When she described the music and television shows she loved as a young girl, they mirrored my own childhood. I could not imagine, however, the constant fear she lived with and how to reconcile with that. How could you love a place so much and yet never feel safe? The other theme of this book was Lauren's coming to terms with her place in her family and in her country. As a child, you are sheltered, and don't fully see the whole complex picture of these parts of your life. Lauren's life was no exception. She didn't grasp her parent's troubled marriage, and likewise, she didn't fully grasp the troubled co-existence of blacks and whites in Rhodesia. It was a sad a sober look at a family and a nation between torn apart.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marian Burke

    A beautiful, haunting and heart-wrenching coming-of-age story for both the writer and her beloved country. I could not put it down. My daydreams are now filled with visions of the African bush and giraffes at sunset.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kw

    Beautifully written memoir of the author's childhood and teen years in war-torn Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. The family structure, settings, and characters are colorful and intriguing. Beautifully written memoir of the author's childhood and teen years in war-torn Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. The family structure, settings, and characters are colorful and intriguing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Lauren St. John is an excellent writer, and she brought the sights, sounds, and smells of Africa to each and every page. I loved this book from start to finish, and I would highly recommend it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    ** 5 stars** I loved this book! I loved this memoir and the way it was written. It was quick witted, well paced and filled with wonderful stories. It is interesting to hear about the collapse of white rule in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe as remembered by a child. There is an innocence about these recollections that I think would be missing from other accounts of these events. I particularly enjoyed reading about how the author realized that almost everything she had believed in as a child was a lie. Particu ** 5 stars** I loved this book! I loved this memoir and the way it was written. It was quick witted, well paced and filled with wonderful stories. It is interesting to hear about the collapse of white rule in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe as remembered by a child. There is an innocence about these recollections that I think would be missing from other accounts of these events. I particularly enjoyed reading about how the author realized that almost everything she had believed in as a child was a lie. Particularly when she realized that the justification for the war that she had loved, was a lie. Her growing maturity and realization about the ingrained racism was truly touching as she work hard to change her views, values and attitudes. I also enjoyed the touching stories of her family and their days on Rainbow's End. Some of these experience, for me growing up in suburbia, where truly mind boggling. It was also heart wrenching hearing about the families that were murdered... Camilla's story was particularly heart breaking. Highly, highly recommend this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    Lauren St. John grew up in what was then Rhodesia. Her father managed farms, one of them located at the titular Rainbow's End, a house of idyll with a twist: the last family to live there had been killed violently. The task St. John sets for herself in this memoir is one that's been done before, but it's still a big one. She's examining her white, privileged, largely insular upbringing in a country built on racism and oppression, and looking at her dawning understanding that the War she believed Lauren St. John grew up in what was then Rhodesia. Her father managed farms, one of them located at the titular Rainbow's End, a house of idyll with a twist: the last family to live there had been killed violently. The task St. John sets for herself in this memoir is one that's been done before, but it's still a big one. She's examining her white, privileged, largely insular upbringing in a country built on racism and oppression, and looking at her dawning understanding that the War she believed in—that her family believed in—was not so right after all. It's a story full of family quirks—her father is dashing, fearless, quick-tempered; her mother has deep-seated wanderlust and would be happier in the city—and political background, but more than that it's a story of growing up. St. John was young enough not to understand what the War meant, even as she professed to (and did) support it. This is fortunate in that it gave her a chance to develop a deeper understanding, different from her parents', as she grew older (not the first time I've gotten this sense from white-person-growing-up-in-Southern-Africa-duing-big-changes memoirs). On the other hand, it was really only towards the end that she dug in deep to look at the other side of the conflict, and I'm not sure she ever went far enough. My family had been in Africa for four generations, she says. Why wasn't I African? Why? (240) I understand the question and the further questions and history behind it, but I can't help feeling that the question comes too late. It seems to have an obvious answer: Because Rhodesia was built on a belief that to be African was to be inferior, that Rhodesian came before African. That's a really difficult legacy to shed, even if you've grown in age and understanding and the country you grew up in no longer exists as such. She asks hard questions and tries to answer them, but at the end of the day I think I wanted more time wrestling with those questions and, you know, less about horses.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dayna

    It's dumbfounding that some people found this to be a slow read. Quite the opposite, I luxuriated in the author's descriptions and found them to be lush, insightful, and heartbreaking. I do wish the author didn't hurriedly summarize the last 20 or so years of her life to fit into the last two chapters of the book. I don't think you can rightly record the emotional, political and historical changes which ensued after the election of Mugabe to power in just two chapters. However, I didn't read thi It's dumbfounding that some people found this to be a slow read. Quite the opposite, I luxuriated in the author's descriptions and found them to be lush, insightful, and heartbreaking. I do wish the author didn't hurriedly summarize the last 20 or so years of her life to fit into the last two chapters of the book. I don't think you can rightly record the emotional, political and historical changes which ensued after the election of Mugabe to power in just two chapters. However, I didn't read this book as a political biography, but as the written memories of a child constantly living life as a series of opposites without yet the wisdom to understand it: the wonderment and joy of life on an idyllic farm against the daily threat of death; having two parents with their own separate dreams and ideas about freedom, that she understood the war as a fight for the freedom of Rhodesia when, in fact, all along, it had been one against independence. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir, not the least because it was so wonderfully written.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    This book broke my heart. ( I must admit, I think I'm a sucker for memoirs. I am drawn into others' stories, recognizing on a deep level how we are all the same.) This story of a childhood in a country that no longer exists was wrenching. All that she loved was removed from her: her parents' relationship ended in turmoil; her country was erased. As we are now studying modern history, I was intrigued by the idea of Rhodesia ending and Zimbabwe beginning..... Having overthrown the white oppressors This book broke my heart. ( I must admit, I think I'm a sucker for memoirs. I am drawn into others' stories, recognizing on a deep level how we are all the same.) This story of a childhood in a country that no longer exists was wrenching. All that she loved was removed from her: her parents' relationship ended in turmoil; her country was erased. As we are now studying modern history, I was intrigued by the idea of Rhodesia ending and Zimbabwe beginning..... Having overthrown the white oppressors, are they better off? I want to read more about Africa's moving out of colonialism into independence. We are so fallen and foolish. Thank God for His eternal truth. How sad it is that so many who claim to know Him do not live in line with His precepts.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bob Stocker

    The Rainbow's End by Lauren St. John is set in Rhodesia in the midst of a civil war that pitted whites against black revolutionaries. By the time the book ends, the whites have lost the war and Rhodesia has become Zimbabwe. The subtitle, A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm, is a good synopsis, but it leaves out what in many ways is the most interesting part of the book: the maturing of St. John's world view as she grows up. The Rainbow's End by Lauren St. John is set in Rhodesia in the midst of a civil war that pitted whites against black revolutionaries. By the time the book ends, the whites have lost the war and Rhodesia has become Zimbabwe. The subtitle, A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm, is a good synopsis, but it leaves out what in many ways is the most interesting part of the book: the maturing of St. John's world view as she grows up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    It's hard not to compare this to Alexandra Fuller's books about growing up white in conflict-ridden Zimbabwe. Fuller, I think, is the better, more critical writer, but St John also honestly explored the dismantling of her own childish beliefs about the righteousness of war, whiteness, and family. Grammatical pet peeve: repeated use of conditional tense rather than past tense, i.e.: "I would ride my horse through the veldt for hours." It's hard not to compare this to Alexandra Fuller's books about growing up white in conflict-ridden Zimbabwe. Fuller, I think, is the better, more critical writer, but St John also honestly explored the dismantling of her own childish beliefs about the righteousness of war, whiteness, and family. Grammatical pet peeve: repeated use of conditional tense rather than past tense, i.e.: "I would ride my horse through the veldt for hours."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    Fascinating view of childhood and a childhood's view of Rhodesia during it's war of independence. I am beginning to wonder if all white families living during this time period were eclectic, dysfunctional, and alcoholic, tho'. Highly recommended if you like reading about other people's family life or a personal view of African history. Fascinating view of childhood and a childhood's view of Rhodesia during it's war of independence. I am beginning to wonder if all white families living during this time period were eclectic, dysfunctional, and alcoholic, tho'. Highly recommended if you like reading about other people's family life or a personal view of African history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jc

    I was hoping this would be similar to Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa but this book is certainly not in the same league. This feels like a book written by a teenager for teenagers. Except for the fact she lives in a pretty messed up family, Lauren St John’s autobiography is not particularly interesting and Rhodesia is just a background

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alannah Marie

    I really enjoyed this book and the honesty that Lauren St John has put into this novel. I read this book in high school as a gift from my aunt and I still remember a lot of what happened in the book years later - a sure sign of a good book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Juanita

    This really captured me. Hope she writes more. Interesting that Alexandra Fuller's "Let's not go out with the Dogs Tonight" was writing of the same period in Africa. Both beautifully written. This really captured me. Hope she writes more. Interesting that Alexandra Fuller's "Let's not go out with the Dogs Tonight" was writing of the same period in Africa. Both beautifully written.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    This book is great. Gives a wonderful and insightful picture of life in Rhodesia prior to the end of British rule and then after. A true story told through the eyes of a teenage girl.

  26. 4 out of 5

    CT

    Having spent some time in Zimbabwe in the late 90s, I've really enjoyed reading memoirs from the time of the war and post-independence periods by Peter Godwin, Alexandra Fuller, Douglas Rogers, and now Lauren St. John (nee Coetzee). This book resembles most the war chronicle of Godwin (Mukiwa), though Godwin was, I think, at least ten years older than St. John. He's also a male and so served in the Rhodesian police during the war. Most importantly, St. John does not take the position of all-know Having spent some time in Zimbabwe in the late 90s, I've really enjoyed reading memoirs from the time of the war and post-independence periods by Peter Godwin, Alexandra Fuller, Douglas Rogers, and now Lauren St. John (nee Coetzee). This book resembles most the war chronicle of Godwin (Mukiwa), though Godwin was, I think, at least ten years older than St. John. He's also a male and so served in the Rhodesian police during the war. Most importantly, St. John does not take the position of all-knowing narrator; we see Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe through the eyes of the author as a child, who shares her world with us as she saw it at the time. As a result, this book has quite a different perspective. The reader is not provided much context at the beginning of the book concerning the political-economic context of life in wartime Rhodesia; instead, we follow a white girl as she discovers the natural world and watches her family make its way through life without commenting critically on the systemic benefits they enjoy due to to the color of their skin. The young St. John is infatuated with horses, so we read quite a bit about that topic; we also read about the frayed relationship of her parents, her daily interactions with black servants, and the strange thrill she derived from living in wartime. Her family, moreso her father, were devoted to white rule in Rhodesia, and it's only when she is in her mid-late teens, at the time of Zimbabwean independence in 1980, that the author takes on critical questions and observations about their life as whites in Africa. This is the part of the book that is the most interesting and painful, since it also coincides with the final split of her parents after serial philandering by her father and her mother's increasingly frequent and escapist world travels. For these reasons, the book is at times joyful, at times tragic, at times frustrating. I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

    Lauren St John provided an outstanding read with her memoirs of growing up in Rhodesia, which after their war of freedom became Zimbabwe. It is beautifully written and I loved her use of adjectives - never overdone but only so much as to give colour and description to her story. According to her profile it appears that she is currently living in the UK and it fascinated me while reading this book how a person who so embraced her freedom in the wild, her fascination with snakes and all other anim Lauren St John provided an outstanding read with her memoirs of growing up in Rhodesia, which after their war of freedom became Zimbabwe. It is beautifully written and I loved her use of adjectives - never overdone but only so much as to give colour and description to her story. According to her profile it appears that she is currently living in the UK and it fascinated me while reading this book how a person who so embraced her freedom in the wild, her fascination with snakes and all other animals, her obsession with horses, and living as independently as she did - all while a war raged around her - could leave it all behind; but as I proceeded with her story it became evident that all of this formed part of what she described as 'living a lie'. Nevertheless, as a South African I can identify with her story, our lifestyle and the beauty of our country. Even now, as debates take place around us and we wonder whether there is a future in South Africa, I realise it would never be easy to leave this continent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Lauren St. John tells the story of her childhood in the colonial hold out of Rhodesia in the years leading up to and immediately following its rebirth as Zimbabwe. I'll be totally honest, I bought this book about 10 years ago at a discount book store because of the horse on the cover. There was not nearly enough horse content to keep me interested the first couple of times that I tried to read it. This time around I was most interested in the cultural conflicts and the narrator's own ignorance t Lauren St. John tells the story of her childhood in the colonial hold out of Rhodesia in the years leading up to and immediately following its rebirth as Zimbabwe. I'll be totally honest, I bought this book about 10 years ago at a discount book store because of the horse on the cover. There was not nearly enough horse content to keep me interested the first couple of times that I tried to read it. This time around I was most interested in the cultural conflicts and the narrator's own ignorance to the complexity of the situation she was immersed in. I was routinely annoyed with the narrator and her failure to grasp the gravity crimes happening around her, but I suppose that's accurate with a child's experience of privilege. I did find some relief and satisfaction in the last third of the book in the character's growth. Still wish there was more horse content.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joan Colby

    A stunningly detailed memoir of a childhood on a Rhodesian farm during a period of tribal wars. The family saga is warmly depicted by Ms. St. John who is unsparing in her revelations and the conflict of feelings of delight in the natural world, especially her devotion to her horses, with the constant threat of attacks by terrorists. Her tale continues into the Mugabe era as she realizes the injustice of the white position that held an imperialistic view of the black population. A fascinating boo A stunningly detailed memoir of a childhood on a Rhodesian farm during a period of tribal wars. The family saga is warmly depicted by Ms. St. John who is unsparing in her revelations and the conflict of feelings of delight in the natural world, especially her devotion to her horses, with the constant threat of attacks by terrorists. Her tale continues into the Mugabe era as she realizes the injustice of the white position that held an imperialistic view of the black population. A fascinating book of both personal and historical detail.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aj

    3.5/5. A good read for getting one perspective of the Zimbabwean civil war of the 70s, and the author eventually reckons with her privilege as she matures. The family stories add a lot of color and warmth. It is inevitable to compare this book to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, and this one is a bit less captivating for some reason, but still worth reading. 3.5/5. A good read for getting one perspective of the Zimbabwean civil war of the 70s, and the author eventually reckons with her privilege as she matures. The family stories add a lot of color and warmth. It is inevitable to compare this book to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, and this one is a bit less captivating for some reason, but still worth reading.

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