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Rainbow's End: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm Hardcover – April 17, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set against the backdrop of the Rhodesian civil war, St. John's memoir (after 2003's Hardcore Troubadour) of growing up on a farm and game preserve in the 1970s deftly conjures up the smells and sounds of the African bush and the era's climate of unashamed racism and feverish patriotism. In April 1975, after a sojourn in South Africa, St. John and her family returned to Rhodesia: her South African-–born father, Errol, longed to defend his adopted homeland from the nationalist threat. When not away "fighting black terrorists," he managed a farm called Rainbow's End, where four previous tenants, including the author's classmate, were murdered by guerrillas. In exuberant prose, St. John, who was born in 1966, conveys a 12-year-old's wonder of roaming her own private game park, but the child's voice darkens when she notices the "maroon punctuation mark of dried blood" on her bedroom wall. Scenes evoking the land's great beauty dissolve into unsettling images of slaughter, and St. John faces her family's politics as she matures. Though St. John's memoir is not as tight or pitch-perfect as Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, she bears witness to a remarkable story. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

The author of several biographies, St. John now turns her eye toward her own African childhood. The daughter of a white soldier and his spirited wife, Lauren was excited when her family left South Africa for Rhodesia in the mid-1970s. Her father longed to fight again as he had in his youth, and Lauren found herself as caught up in it as he was. When several members of a nearby family, including a boy in Lauren's class, are murdered by insurgents, Lauren and her family move into their farm home, Rainbow's End. The farm is a child's paradise: a giraffe Lauren christens Jenny roams the land, and Lauren rides her stubborn horse, Charm, around the vast grounds. But peril is everywhere, as deadly snakes slither around and sometimes inside the house, and terrorists prowl in the nighttime. When the war comes to an end and Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe, Lauren finds herself an outsider in her country. Lush descriptions of both the terrain and the war distinguish St. John's moving memoir. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Printing edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743286790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743286794
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The engaging details evoke that period very well and this is a gripping account for anybody who was there.
Ferro
One thing that I hope to pass on to my kids is the love of animals, and how to survive without all the time spend in front of the TV and computers and be a real kid.
Stephanie-Lea Matulich
I lived for several years in South Africa, and when I read this book, I was transported back in time to the place I was happiest.
Kerry E. Riper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Jane Tucker on April 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I love tales of African childhoods and there seem to have been a lot of these books lately. This is the best one I've ever read. All of these books raphsodize about the beauty of Africa but this is the first book that made me see it too. This book made me laugh and cry -- and compelled me to write my first Amazon review. I read two or three books a week and I highly recommend this book.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Diane Wilson on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is very good. I was a teenager in America when this was happening in Rhodesia. I remember it changing names and I remember there being some type of war, but I don't remember much else. I was shocked at some of the things that happened, but I really enjoyed the book. It should be required reading for anyone studying histories. I have passed this book on to some one who was born in that country and was just a few years older than the author and she has other memories, but she also said it was good. I definately recommend this book for anyone who likes books about history. It was very personable. The author made you really visualize the scenes as she described them.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Emerson on January 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a beautifully written memoir of childhood that,importantly for me, does a fantastic job of evoking the time and place, scents and sounds of growing up on a farm in the bush. Perhaps more meaningful to me since I've traveled in southern Africa, but its a wonderful story for anyone not just those interested in that period and that place.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Mechlinski VINE VOICE on July 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Growing up in 1960s Rhodesia, Lauren St. John thought she was in paradise. Despite the ever-looming threat of terrorist attacks, Lauren lived immersed in breathtaking African beauty. She and her younger sister Lisa had dozens of exotic pets and ran freely across the land, while native Africans ran their farm and household. The world was Lauren's for the taking.

Then the war ended, turning Rhodesia into Zimbabwe - and a completely foreign place. Suddenly the country's black citizens were in full force, demanding equality with their white neighbors. For people like Lauren, who had grown up believing whites were inherently in charge, it was an abrupt and bitter eye-opening. Was nothing the way she'd thought it was?

Slowly but sincerely, teenage Lauren struggles to gain a grasp on her new universe - making friends with the black girls now integrated into her school, getting to know the family employees as individuals rather than generic servants.

St. John's recollections are candid and well-written, capturing a memorable period in African history and offering valuable insight for readers all over the world.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Derek Pirie on August 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I lived in Rhodesia in the time period this book was written. Although some minor facts are not quite correct, it gives an excellent feel for what it was like to live there and experience the multitude of changes.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By NyiNya TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lauren St. John's tale of family life, strife and growing up in Rhodesia during "the War" -- the guerrilla war that lead to the creation of Zimbabwe and Mugabe dictatorship, is at once beguilling and frustrating. There are all sorts of unnecessary nonsequiters and mysteries that derail what is generally a very engaging memoir. For instance, she frequently discusses her unpronouncable Dutch name, but I'm not sure if I ever saw it in the book. She says that the entire family changed names by deedpole but she doesn't say why. And they all took different surnames. Why this need to disassociate from one another? Why no details? Why mention all this if it is unmentionable and you can't tell us what you're talking about?

Something is going on between mom and dad, Mom is always getting on a plane and flying around the world, but we dont find out why until almost the end of the book. Even then, she doesn't do more than hint until the last few pages. Dad was unfaithful. Is that it? That's the big deal? That's why they all took different surnames? If she was going to tell us anyway, why make us roll our eyes in frustration first?

For all her tiptoeing around family secrets and disputes, St. John is ultra-descriptive about her daily life, from the vanilla-licious Cerelac she had for breakfast, to her particular preferences in biltong. This attention to detail is the best part of the story, giving us a real feel for the era and the way she lived. It is where St. Johns' story captures our attention and where her gift for making us 'see' what she sees really shines.

The book is a fascinating look at Rhodesia prior to and during the time it morphed into Zimbabwe and the thugocracy it is today, although it ends before the country goes completely off the rails.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carol J. Horky on June 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you like memoirs -- and travel -- you will love this beautifully written book. Nothing sloppy here. Clear, lovely prose. Family, war, romance, Africa -- it is all here. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Russell on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've enjoyed this book especially because the frame for Lauren St. John's story--the Rhodesian Bush War and the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe--is a well-developed historical account, beautifully integrated into her childhood memoir. We understand the national upheaval as she did, first in a vague outline as her family conflicts are suggested in her adventures as a younger child, then from the white farmers' perspective as the war rages and her family relationships become more strained, and eventually from her shockingly altered perspective as she confronts her new understanding of both her family and her country. Despite her crushing disillusionment, this is ultimately a book of hope--and when you look at the list of her published books, you realize that she did achieve at least one of her childhood ambitions.
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