African saga a welcome improvement

May 21, 2014
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One Hundred and Four Horses; A Memoir of Farm and Family, Africa and Exile

by Mandy Retzlaff (HarperCollins, RRP $30):

After the last, very bad, African saga I read, I decided that I would read no more about that troubled continent, first met through Wilbur Smith and followed up with Bryce Courtney.

The fact that this story is about real life was not an extra draw card; you can distance yourself from the experiences of made up characters, but it’s a bit more difficult when they’re real. And the Retzlaffs’ is a story that I would not have liked to live through myself. However, I can admire their fortitude and perseverance.

The Retzlaffs were more or less living the dream in Zimbabwe when a dreadful change in government led to the loss of so much. They were moved off their beloved land by Mugabe’s forces. Determined not to leave the country they loved, and hoping that justice would prevail, they moved from farm to farm before being run off each one.

This story isn’t just about one couple though. As the title suggests, it’s also about the horses that they save along the way. They went to great lengths to smuggle their horses to safety each time they were moved on. They found it difficult to ignore any horse in plight and soon became known as ‘the horse people’, tracked down by those forced to flee and needing care for their beloved horses.

Mandy’s account of life under Mugabe is an important historical record. Recommended.

Naida Mulligan

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