|Men of Men (1983) [Novel]|
by Wilbur Smith
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Zouga Ballantyne yearns to return to the land north of the Limpopo river where his treasure of ivory still lies hidden from the expedition he made with his sister Robyn ten years before (A Falcon Flies). But he lacks the resources to go there. Convinced that the new diamond workings will supply the fortune he needs to realise his dream, he joins the diamond rush with his frail wife and two young sons, Ralph and Jordan.
Life is harsh in the fledgling town of Kimberley, but although his wife dies, the boys flourish. Ralph grows into a dark, impetuous, determined youth, loyal to his father as he toils in the workings and strong in his friendship with their Matabele labourer Bazo. Jordan retains the delicate sensitivity of his mother and becomes a gifted diamond sorter. Into this seething community strides the dominant figure of Cecil John Rhodes whose ally Zouga becomes for some years - until in a reckless gamble Zouga loses all, his claim, his money, his boys.
Ralph, now grown up, strikes out north to his father's promised land, while Jordan becomes Rhodes' secretary and the labourers scatter, Bazo returning with his rich hoard of illegal diamonds to his uncle the Matabele king Lobengula. But Zouga was right; the key to the opening of that land to the north did lie in the diamond workings. For it wOas the fortune made by Rhodes at Kimberley that financed his famous 'Pioneers' expedition. Zouga is able to realise his dream at last, and returns to the north as Rhodes' negotiator with the Matabele king.
The second part of the novel tells the fascinating but chilling tale of courage, determination, deceit and outright betrayal that led to the annexation by Rhodes and his British South Africa Charter company of the land that was to become Rhodesia. Inextricably bound up with this are Zouga, his sons, and his sister Robyn who, now married to Clinton Codrington, runs the Khami Mission in Matabeleland. With his powerful storytelling magic Wilbur Smith conjures up the dignified squalor of Lobengula's colourful kraal and makes the reader feel the tribal pride of the Matabele and yet at the same time share the boundless excitement and energy of those ruthless pioneers who were set on a collision course with them. This conflict is mirrored in the painful deterioration of the relationship between Ralph and Bazo. For youthful friendship notwithstanding, the two young men find themselves in opposing camps. The story of the death of Lobengula and the bloody battles that laid the foundation for Rhodesia and her later troubles is vividly told. Zouga, Mungo St John, Robyn, Clinton and the Matabele warriors of A Falcon Flies are joined here by a host of new characters who in turn sweep us into the next book, The Angels Weep. This vivid historical novel is the second of the Ballantyne sequence of four books about the origins of Rhodesia and its later violent transformation into Zimbabwe.
Original title: Men of Men
Genre: Fiction→ Adventure→ Wild Frontiers And Exotic Lands