'If I stood you in front of a man, pressed a gun into your palm and told you to squeeze the trigger, would you do it?' 'No, sir, no way!' 'What if I then told you we'd gone back in time and his name was Adolf Hitler?
Would you do it then?' Zimbabwe, 1980s. The fighting has stopped, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering the end of the Old Way and promising hope for black Africans.
For Robert Jacklin, it's all new: new continent, new country, new school. And very quickly he learns that for some of his white classmates, the sound of guns is still loud, and their battles rage on.
Boys like Ivan. Clever, cunning Ivan. He wants things back to how they were, and he's taking his fight to the very top.
Winner of the Costa, the UKLA and the Branford Boase Awards.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages
- Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 28/01/2010
- Category: General
- ISBN: 9781849390484
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by erademeyer
What an outstanding debut novel! Jason Wallace has created a plot that draws you in from the opening page as 13 year-old Robert, newly arrived from England, witnesses the fear-enducing spectacle of the Prime Minister's motorcade in the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe. The setting is early 1980's when Robert Mugabe is Prime Minister and the country is still reeling after years of civil war. Robert, whose father works at the British Embassy, is sent to a prestigious local boarding school and it is here that the story unfolds. Robert's initial floundering as he attempts to fit in with the right crowd and makes wrong choices is as believable as the school setting, with power-hungry prefects determined to make the younger students suffer. The dialogue so accurately reflects the mix of languages, English, Afrikaans and Shona, that many young Zimbabweans use and the delightfully unique slang that echoes my own childhood in Zimbabwe. There is no watering-down of shocking attitudes and cruelty, but Jason Wallace manages to create a cast of characters that are both complex and believable. As the story draws to a close, the devastating reality of what is planned becomes clear and now, knowing what we do of the country's suffering, the question posed at the start is perhaps one for the reader to ponder as well. A brilliant book and one that will remain with me for a long time.
Review by Upthealbion
This is an astonishingly powerful book with an aura of menace and tragedy running all the way through it. A compelling and devastating read.
Review by celerydog
A powerful story of the history of Zimbabwe, using an elapsed time, first person narrative of a schoolboy-to- adult, ex-patriot, British protagonist.Deftly handled themes of racism, colonialism, alcoholism and the ability of power to corrupt are presented through the lens of life in a single sex boarding school. This debut novel, already an award winner (Costa Children’s fiction prize 2010) is beautifully crafted with evocative prose, which at times soars. Frequent, explicit scenes of torture and violence make this a more mature read than others on this year’s Carnegie Medal shortlist. But what a read – outstanding.