Cover image for When a crocodile eats the sun : a memoir of Africa
When a crocodile eats the sun : a memoir of Africa
Godwin, Peter, 1957-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2007.

Physical Description:
344 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT2999.G63 A3 2007 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DT2999.G63 A3 2007 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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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.

Author Notes

Peter Godwin is an award winning author and journalist. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, he studied law and international relations at Cambridge and Oxford. He worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa and Eastern Europe for The Sunday Times of London. He was founding presenter and writer of Assignment/Correspondent, BBC TV's premier foreign affairs program. He now lives in Manhattan and contributes regularly to National Geographic, New York Times magazine, and BBC Radio, among others.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When journalist Godwin, author of the memoir Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (1996), learns that his father is gravely ill, he flies home to Zimbabwe. Against the odds, his father makes a full recovery, and Godwin seizes the opportunity to get to know both his father and his country better. He finds Zimbabwe in a sad state in the late 1990s. Disgruntled veterans of the Rhodesian war and mobs of young men are terrorizing and sometimes killing white farmers and seizing their land with the tacit approval of Robert Mugabe's government. Political opposition to the violence only brings more bloodshed as politicians from the opposition party are subject to similar attacks. On the personal front, Godwin's mother reveals a surprising secret: his father's real name is Jerzy Goldfarb, and he is actually a Jew born in Poland before World War II. Godwin is as enraptured by his father's history--and its effect on his own sense of identity--as he is by tumultuous Zimbabwean politics. Godwin seamlessly blends a journalistic quest to get at the heart of the problems plaguing his home country with a family memoir in this absorbing, powerful book. --Kristine Huntley Copyright 2007 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this exquisitely written, deeply moving account of the death of a father played out against the backdrop of the collapse of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, seasoned journalist Godwin has produced a memoir that effortlessly manages to be almost unbearably personal while simultaneously laying bare the cruel regime of longstanding president Robert Mugabe. In 1996 when his father suffers a heart attack, Godwin returns to Africa and sparks the central revelation of the book-the father is Jewish and has hidden it from Godwin and his siblings. As his father's health deteriorates, so does Zimbabwe. Mugabe, self-proclaimed president for life, institutes a series of ill-conceived land reforms that throw the white farmers off the land they've cultivated for generations and consequently throws the country's economy into free fall. There's sadness throughout-for the death of the father, for the suffering of everyone in Zimbabwe (black and white alike) and for the way that human beings invariably treat each other with casual disregard. Godwin's narrative flows seamlessly across the decades, creating a searing portrait of a family and a nation collectively coming to terms with death. This is a tour de force of personal journalism and not to be missed. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved