When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Paperback)

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I have never felt so connected to an author after finishing a book. At every turn of the page, you can feel yourself getting closer to the author. By the end, you almost know how he is going to react before you read it.

Peter Godwin deserves a lot of credit for making the reader feel so engrossed and invested in his book, while at the same time describing the many challenges that Zimbabwe is facing after independence. When the author discovers his older sister’s grave vandalized and defecated upon, you feel his anger as he is walking towards the warden’s office. I wept with the author, when after his Dad died, he discovered a box full of all his articles he had written. His father never gave him much credit for being a journalist, yet secretly kept all of his work. I truly did not expect this level of attachment when I started this book. The author does a phenomenal job describing how the country changed after independence, not a sudden jolting change, but a slow change that happened before your eyes without realizing until it’s too late.  

The book is filled with first-person testimony of corruption, land seizure, inflation, and how the violence quickly spirals out of control and engulfs the entire country in madness. But the most surprising part of the story, was when the author discovered that his father had hid is Polish-Jewish ancestry his entire life. His father was born in Poland and was raised Jewish, luckily, he was able to move to England before the Nazis invaded. Unfortunately, the rest of his family was not so lucky, and tragically died in the concentration camps. The author decided to hide his Jewish and Polish ancestry, married an Englishwoman and then immigrated to Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) after WWII.

It’s always funny what you will discover when you pick up a book. Before reading this, I thought this was a book focused on the history of Zimbabwe after independence. I never knew this was a story about a white Zimbabwean who discovers his Jewish ancestry while struggling to help his parents survive in a country suffering from corruption and hyper-inflation. But that is the power of books, you can never judge them by their cover.  I encourage anyone who wants to expand their horizons and maybe see the world through someone else’s eyes to read this book.

— From Cultures


After his father's heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives. On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards into the jaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator. And yet long after their comfortable lifestyle had been shattered and millions were fleeing, his parents refuse to leave, steadfast in their allegiance to the failed state that has been their adopted home for 50 years.

Then Godwin discovered a shocking family secret that helped explain their loyalty. Africa was his father's sanctuary from another identity, another world.

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun is a stirring memoir of the disintegration of a family set against the collapse of a country. But it is also a vivid portrait of the profound strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

About the Author

Peter Godwin is the award-winning author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Mukiwa. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, he was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than 60 countries. Since moving to Manhattan, he has written for National Geographic, the New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He has taught at Princeton and Columbia and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2010.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780316018715
ISBN-10: 0316018716
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: April 10th, 2008
Pages: 368
Language: English