Reviewed by Janet Walton
Author Elaine Bosman was born in Natal South Africa where her parents spoke both English and Afrikaans and she had a Zulu nanny as a child. Being brought up in a multilingual household fostered in her a love of languages. She worked in London in her twenties meeting her husband Paul Bosman and eventually marrying him in Canada. Paul had grown up in the wilds of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana and travelled extensively through the wilderness of Africa. After they married he found it increasingly difficult to settle, hankering after a more simple life back in the African bush.
The book is about the journey searching for that special place to set up a photographic safari lodge, eventually settling on the wilderness of the then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where they built Malapati and raised their family. As someone who was fortunate to travel to the African bush with my parents it was fascinating to read about a time in Rhodesia’s history that is long gone, a time before universal suffrage, becoming a democracy with all the challenges that followed.
The writing is excellent and the book is easy to read with sad moments and lots of laughter. I was constantly reminded this is an era long gone. Paul and Elaine have to learn how to build their home in 1969, then the lodge, sort out plumbing and eventually build a runway about 200 miles away from Fort Victoria and 90 miles from the nearest tar road.
Elaine Bosman, the Author
Elaine Bosman loved living in Johannesburg and it is a very definite decision of hers to move her family to the bush with very little support and a totally new way of life. She had no knowledge of the animals, lifestyle or vegetation, but you can tell early on she is determined to give this dream of Paul’s the best chance of success. They have some dangerous moments with elephants, buffalo, lions and other wild animals. When Elaine writes about the animals and the African bush, her love of the land and the animals clearly outweigh the dangers they faced.
She writes with skill about sending her children Christopher, twelve years and Simon, nine years to boarding school and how hard that was. Kate their daughter was born in Johannesburg in 1974 and returns with Elaine when a month old to Malapati. The relationships with the locals are central to the story alongside the difficulties with new languages and an unknown way of life. This adventure could not have happened without everyone who joined them and Elaine’s love for her staff is easy to feel alongside the frustrations of a very relaxed African way of life.
This part of the family’s life together ends in 1975 just before Rhodesia begins to change, going through a very turbulent time when they move back to South Africa to assist Paul with his art career and start Kate on her life in a new more stable place. This lasts until 1982 when the politics of Africa once again rear their head and the decision is made to immigrate to the USA.
I would recommend Elaine Bosman’s book to everyone, especially to those who may have left Southern Africa at the same time.
Registered Nurse who loves to read and supports her husband’s radio station Mix Tape Radio International
You can read the review for of ‘Like Clockwork’ by Margie Orford, also by Janet Walton