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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Book Review: One Hundred and Four Horses: A Story of Farm and Family, Afrida and Exile

Author: Mandy Retzlaff
Publisher: Collins, 2013
Genre: non-fiction, memoir

Goodreads Description:

 ‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’

As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.

When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.

Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.

One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.

 
First lines:
They set out as night was falling, but it is almost dawn and there has been no sign of my husband or our horses.
I stand on the wide veranda of the old colonial farmhouse, trying to make out shapes in the early-morning gloom. Before Pat left, he told me to get some sleep, but he has done this before--midnight missions to rustle our own horses off land we no longer own--and I know how it goes.

Goodreads Description:

 ‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’

As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.

When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.

Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.

One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.


My Review:

As someone who cares deeply about both people and animals, this was a tough read. The book begins in Zimbabwe during the time of Mugabe and the wrongful eviction of white landowners from their farms. The Retzlaffs were one of these familiies, and Mandy brings her family's story life vividly. 'Horse people' through and through, the Retzlaffs could not abandon their horses (or anyone else's) to violence or neglect, and risked their lives to bring the horses with them on multiple escapes. At times you will laugh, at times you will cry, but always you will admire the passion and courage of Mandy and her husband Pat to keep their horses alive and safe. Their perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles, and their deep love for Zimbabwe, its horses and the land are felt on every single page.

My Rating: 5 stars

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