2010 Reading Highlights: Anthony Stidolph

2010-12-01 00:00

RETURNING to his parents’ farm and backpacker lodge near Mutare in Zimbabwe after an absence of several years, writer and journalist Douglas Rogers finds things much changed in The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe, a book which sees him rubbing shoulders with illicit diamond dealers and political dissidents, war veterans and old rugby players. Astute and intelligent, Rogers manages to capture life in contemporary Zimbabwe so neatly that his observations become almost a form of wit, but at the chillingly unfunny centre of the book lies the tragedy of President Robert Mugabe’s brutal and repressive rule.

The recent global financial meltdown provides the backdrop for The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers, the latest novel from Paul Torday, acclaimed author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Using a zigzagging narrative he shows how the fortunes of two men from opposite ends of the social scale become irretrievably intertwined in this wise, funny and at times poignant look at life both inside and outside the financial bubble.

Hoping to gain access to a war in Liberia no one else had filmed, cameraman and journalist James Brabazon enlisted the help of a former member of the South African Special Forces who would later attract notoriety for his role in the catastrophic attempt to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea — Nick DuToit. In My Friend the Mercenary he tells in gripping detail the story of their subsequent experiences together as they manage to hitch a ride with the rebel forces (LURD) intent on overthrowing Charles Taylor’s bloodthirsty regime.

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