Ivor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, and visual artist. Awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (2009), finalist for the Yvonne Vera Award (2011), selected for The 20 in Twenty: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy (2014), awarded third in the Jalada Prize for Literature (2015), and Nommo Awards nomination (2017). His works have appeared in many publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar and AfroSF series of anthologies. He is a founding member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, and on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

08 March 2010

Review: Amelia's Inheritance - Sarudzai Mubvakure

Amelia's Inheritance - Sarudzai Mubvakure

Reviewed by Ivor W. Hartmann.

Sarudzai Mubvakure’s Amelia's Inheritance is a powerful heartfelt tale of family intrigue and its devastating long term effects. Set in a troubled colonial Rhodesia in the late sixties and early seventies as seen through the eyes of one Amelia Gruber. Though born into a wealthy family with all the privileges that money and her race bestow, when we first meet Amelia she is a somewhat awkward adolescent. This soon changes as she is flung into an uncertain future when her father is bankrupted and dies shortly after. It is through these dramatic changes that Amelia, who far from being defeated instead blossoms into a strong woman who takes control of her life; and along the way, discovers and is strong enough to deal with the secrets of her family’s past.

From the bright and dashing lawyer Peter Mudondo boldly championing the victims of illegal re-settlement, to the calm and supportive though private Sisi and downright slimy piece of work Bruce Forbes. Each of the characters Amelia encounters in her life changes her in the way people whom we are passionate about, in love and hate, do. In this Mubvakure rings a golden note of a gentle and compassionate observation, understanding, and portrayal of the complexity of human relations. How people in our lives and the way we interact with them mould us into who we are.

This is Mubvakure’s second novel and she has a firm yet very empathetic voice as she plough’s wholeheartedly into a setting and perspective that few writers today can deal with; without becoming too embroiled in the politics and injustices of this period. Mubvakure’s colonial Rhodesia on the brink of massive change is a character unto itself in the way it influences and in many ways governs their actions and thereby their lives. But never does it overtly intrude, though these elements are certainly there and accurately portrayed, her principle focus nobly remains within the rich lives of her characters.

In Amelia’s Inheritance, Mubvakure also tackles many of the issue’s of that era and some which still persist, from woman’s rights and domestic violence to poverty and racial injustice, but always without malice or a sense of finger pointing. Instead she skilfully employ’s these issues to both highlight them and to drive plot and character arcs. Indeed one can say for sure Amelia’s Inheritance is a primarily a character driven novel.

With many Zimbabwean writers eagerly diving into stories set in and of contemporary Zimbabwe with its instability and upheavals, Amelia’s Inheritance is surely a breath of fresh air. She has a wonderful easy going style that invites the reader onward and envelopes you in her world as you laugh and mourn together with her characters. There is no literary pretension on her behalf; only a good story well told that leaves you happy to have taken the time to experience it.


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