Sunday 19 August 2018

Book review : A Child Called Happiness - Stephan Collishaw

Last year, I read and reviewed The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw, the hauntingly beautiful and poignant tale of Yael, a young Jewish girl desperately trying to survive in the forests around Vilnius during World War II. In A Child Called Happiness, the action moves to Zimbabwe.

Roy Drew has lived on the farm that he inherited from his uncle for his whole adult life. His daughter was born there and, along with his wife, they run the farm fairly, providing much needed employment for some of the local black families.

His ancestors, however, were much less humane and morally sound. A century before, the white settlers arrived and took the ancestral homes of the black locals, beating them, abducting some of the women and young men, moving them onto reservations in the barren wastelands while keeping their fertile lands for themselves.

In alternate chapters, we hear Drew's story but also that of the Mazowe tribe, their chief Tafara and his descendants, used and abused by several generations of white men.

In this latest uprising, where the locals, supported by Mugabe's government, serve papers on the white "interlopers" to reclaim their lands and threaten violence and destruction in retribution for past horrors, it is hard to know who is right and who is wrong. The attacks on the white farms mirror those of a century before but for the current white dwellers, Zimbabwe has always been their home.

It is an eye-opening, atmospheric read that portrays over a hundred years of modern history from both viewpoints without being at all judgemental or telling the reader what to think. It's above all a story of families, showing that the choices of our ancestors can echo through many generations to come.

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (17 May 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1787198812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787198814

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest views.


  1. I must get this and read it as I grew up in Zimb.

  2. A high rating on this one, sounds like a good read!

  3. That sounds like a sound take on a fascinating and weighty subject. Thanks for the review.

  4. Sounds brilliant - I think you and I have the same taste in books. Everything you've reviewed - I have either read it or have it on my list!


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