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An Elegy for Easterly Paperback – April 16, 2009

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About the Author

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer. Her writing has already appeared in eight countries - she has written for Prospect, Farafina, Per Contra, the Guardian, the Mail and Guardian, Suddeutsche Zeitung and the Zimbabwe Times and the website of Granta magazine. Petina's writing awards include Zimbabwe's Mukuru Nyaya Award for comic writing, and a runner-up award in the SA/PEN HSBC short story competition judged by JM Coetzee. She has law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University in Austria and the University of Zimbabwe and currently works in Geneva as an international trade lawyer. In addition to English and her native language Shona, Petina also speaks German and French.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (April 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571246931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571246939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,178,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Blackman on April 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
This debut short-story collection by Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah is a wonderful read. The tone of each one is perfect: the language is consistently beautiful but also completely natural. You get to know the characters very quickly, through small details artfully described, and are left at just the right moment to move on to the next tale.

The title gives a clue to what's in store. "Elegy" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "A song of lamentation, esp. a funeral song or lament for the dead". This book feels like Petina Gappah's lament for the Zimbabwe she grew up in, a Zimbabwe that has been scarred by political corruption, economic chaos and the scourge of AIDS. I can't say whether she means to say that the Zimbabwe she knew is dead. Of course the country endures, the people endure, and that's what these stories are about. Perhaps the lament is not so much for the country itself as for the people who have suffered so much. In any case, there's a deep sadness underlying all these stories, and there's a death or a funeral in most of the stories.

Yet the strange thing is that there's also a lot of humour, and the humour often goes hand-in-hand with the sadness. There's the old carpenter who is cheated out of his pension and wins a dancing contest, the diplomat who is new to email and loses thousands of euros to the old lottery scam, and the bizarre goings-on at the Hotel California. In many of the stories, the humour is very real and genuinely funny, and yet it feels like a thin veneer which Gappah deliberately lets slip every now and then, exposing the horror underneath.

My favourite story, though, has no real humour. It's called 'Something Nice from London' and tells of a family waiting at the airport for the twice-weekly flight from London.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm on May 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We often wonder how Zimbabweans have coped with the tragic political, economic, and social environment. Whenever I try to explain the beauty and strength of the Zimbabwean people, I find myself stumbling over words and not able to really explain myself or how people do survive--both materially and emotionally--with any eloquence. Thankfully, Petina Gappah's collection of stories succeeds where I fail miserably. As the other reviewer said, these stories are sad, hilarious, and very real. You find yourself empathizing and understanding them as people as they struggle through their daily lives.

This is a fantastic book that helps explain the real lives of real Zimbabweans living in a very unreal time. If you want to understand Zimbabwe beyond cholera, Mugabe, AIDS, and politics -- this collection will help get you there.
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By Erin Britton on November 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Taken individually as well as when assembled collectively, the short stories that comprise Petina Gappah's debut collection, An Elegy for Easterly, offer a powerful lament for the Zimbabwe of Gappah's childhood, a Zimbabwe that has all but disappeared behind the tragedies of totalitarianism, hyperinflation, corruption, crippling poverty, misogyny and an unchecked AIDS epidemic. Although, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the suffering that has been experienced in Zimbabwe, all of the stories are tinged by the twin spectres of death and despair, Gappah manages to provide moments of sparkling humour while at the same time highlighting the endurance and resilience that is shown both inspiringly and heartbreakingly by Zimbabweans today. An Elegy for Easterly has been rightly acclaimed; Gappah's stories are a triumph of truth, tragedy and insight into a hugely misunderstood country.

All thirteen stories in An Elegy for Easterly are excellent, but there are several that particularly stand out. There are important and deadly secrets at play in most of Gappah's tales; secrets, whether at a national or personal level, which everyone may well know but that no one will talk about. In `The Cracked, Pink Lips of Rosie's Bridegroom' guests at a wedding all notice the signs of AIDS to be seen in the bridegroom's face. They know of his chequered sexual history and that being with him will ultimately prove the death of his bride, but none of them warn her. Many things are left unsaid in Gappah's Zimbabwe. In `Something Nice from London' Mary Chikwiro is sitting with her extended family at Harare airport waiting for the flight from London that will bring her brother Peter back to his family.
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