- Book: House of Stone
- Location: Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)
- Author: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
“Rise O voices of Rhodesia”
Young Bukhosi has been captured by the police at the Mthwakazi rally, observed by the lodger of the household, Zamani. Where has he been taken? Will he ever come back?
Zamani, whilst Bukhosi is missing, is busy inveigling himself into Bukhosi’s family, and his parents Agnes and Abed are already becoming Zamani’s surrogate parents.
Zamani knows how to ingratiate himself and takes Abed’s drinking in hand, determined to keep a wary eye on the bottles as he encourages Abed to unfurl the family history over a glass or two of Johnnie. That’s just what Bukhosi would have done, observes Mum Agnes….Zamani is thus well ensconced.
Zamani gradually becomes the astute observer and chronicler of his adopted family, eliciting backstories set against the often brutal history of the country, first under the white rule of Ian Smith, then during the violent rise to power of Mugabe and Nkomo. Sovereignty shifts and so do the fortunes and stories of those being chronicled.
There is mercurial Thandi who back in the 1970s stole many a heart and still exerts a hold over the present generation. She effectively becomes the chronicler’s inamorata. He gradually builds up a picture of his surrogate family through refugee and guerrilla camps, war, through to independence on 17 April 1980. The family’s white ancestor Farmer Thornton – a dispirited Rhodie – watched forlornly as the proverbial sands shifted. A new country was emerging – to violence and the Gukurahundi Massacres.
This is an ambitious debut novel, divided into 3 books, that sweeps through Zimbabwe’s recent history, the prose suffused with local idiom and flavour. The reader will learn about the country and understand a little of the history, richly described with insight and oftentimes with humour. However, the reflective narrative did not really draw me in. In many ways it was breathless, layering detail upon detail and overall I rather struggled to connect with the story. I can however see how many will find the style and content engaging.
A good read for anyone who wants to get a feel and a sense of the recent history of the country. It is however anticipated that the reader already has a good sense of the country but for those who are uninformed (like me), a glossary of terms/words might have been helpful.