Book Review: An Elegy For Easterly by Petina Gappah

“Like the worthless dogs that are his countrymen, my husband believed that his penis was wasted if he was faithful to just one woman” – At The Sound Of The Last post

In my quest to find new authors to add to my list of favorites,  sometime last year I discovered Petina Gappah when I read her book titled ‘The Book of Memory’ and I absolutely loved it (click on this link to read my review on the book – Based on this experience, I was delighted when I stumbled on ‘An Elegy for Easterly’ and looked forward to a great read and I was not disappointed at all.

This book is a collection of thirteen (13) short stories which borders around the struggles of the average Zimbabwean in post independence Zimbabwe, a country now saddled with poor governance, corruption, hyperinflation, poverty, dilapidated infrastructure, bureaucracy, AIDS epidemic, marital affairs and sycophancy (which mirrors the current situation in many African countries in an extreme form).  In satirical stories, Gappah brings to life the realities in the lives of the poor, the rich, conmen, politicians, women kept in ‘The small house’, Zimbabweans in diaspora, the married and unmarried. To say that these stories are well written is an understatement as they had the right amount of humor, irony and melancholy.

To pick a favorite was hard, but I settled for ‘The Negotiated Settlement’, a story about a marriage gone soar fueled by the loss of dreams, promises and a child. My favorite quote from this story would be –

“Thulani had once asked for a divorce. She had felt then a wave of rage so sharp it threatened to cut her sanity, but she forced herself to speak slowly, calmly. In his language she had told him, ‘First you undo me this scar, then you unlearn me this language. After that, you can come back and we can talk about divorce”.

My other favorites were At The Sound Of The Last Post, An Elegy for Easterly, Something Nice From London, Aunt Juliana’s Indian and My Cousin-Sister Rambanai. I do not have a story I did not like, they were all interesting and entertaining in their own rights but some are always loved more than others.

Petina Gappah has wowed me with her debut, colored with themes that are relatable and fresh . It is little wonder it won the Guardian first book award. I rate this book a big 4.5 stars and I recommend it to everyone.

Published: 2009 by Faber Faber

Pages: 227

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories Collection)

Purchase @

The Author: Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organization that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries.


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