A few reviews of Soldier Blue


A vivid story of coming of age in a country falling apart, told with wry, dry, self-deprecating honesty.”

Ursula K. Le Guin


“Best Reads of 2008: The past few years have seen a slew of books about the Rhodesian Bush War and – following on from that – Zimbabwe’s sad decline from the great hope of a post-independent Africa to a bankrupt, pariah state shunned by the Western world. Author Paul Williams’s coming-of-age memoir, Soldier Blue, must rank among the best of these – a lucid, insightful and unflinchingly honest account of what it was like growing up during the last days of white rule.” Weekend Witness (KZN, South Africa, Nov. 2008)


Book of the Month

‘Soldier Blue’ is more honest than Mukiwa; and steers away from the more maudlin aspects and ‘Africa’ generalisations that bedevil Godwin’s recent When the Crocodile Eats the Sun.  It’s also less family-obsessed than Fuller’s Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight; and its central character is more self-aware in a more fruitful way than the soldier figure in Fuller’s Scribbling the Cat.  New Africa Books



Compulsively readable. I’d call it a thumping good read, only that sounds a little flippant. The story has moments of humour, but it is also filled with a sense of tragic waste, with an almost Tolstoyan rage at the stupidity and pointlessness, the sheer irrationality of war. — David Philip Publishers.



A fine piece of writing, weaving together Paul Williams’s personal story with the larger fate of Rhodesia to create a very memorable tapestry. — University of KwaZulu-Natal Press



5.0 out of 5 stars One of the truly outstanding Zim memoirs, 23 Jan 2011 By

C. Matthews “Captain Review” (London)  This review is from: Soldier Blue: A Memoir (Paperback)


Let’s face it, there is no shortage of memoirs coming out of the last days of Rhodesia; in particular the vicious civil war that led to Zimbabwe, and of course the heartbreaking tragedy that all those who fought and died in that war, on both sides, ultimately died in vain.

This book, however, is head and shoulders above most books out here and easily in the Peter Godwin league.

As a Zimbabwean myself who returned recently on a similar pilgrimage, I wept whilst reading the hymn that Paul Williams quotes part of, as he sits in 2004, in the ruined grounds of his old school in Harare, now a middle-aged man:

‘Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing, thanks for mercies past received,
Pardon all, their faults confessing, time that’s lost may all retrieve’

Highly recommended.



5.0 out of 5 stars Soldier Blue deserves a wide readership by Peter H “Peter H” (London, UK) This review is from: Soldier Blue: A Memoir (Paperback)


This book is a startlingly vivid evocation of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the last decades of white settler rule, and of the war that ended that rule. However, it deserves a much wider readership than those with a strong interest in that particular place and period. The uncompromising honesty of the author, and the page-turning power of the story, will reward almost any reader. I could not put the book down. Although it runs to more than 400 pages, I read it in a single day. Make sure that you have nothing else to do before you start reading it!



Wry and compelling

17 Dec 2008

Anthony Stidolph

WARS, as this compelling coming-of-age memoir – set during the last days of white rule in Rhodesia – reminds us, do not necessarily end when the guns fall silent or the politicians declare them to be over. The aftershocks continue to reverberate for those that have survived them as they struggle to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.

Although written almost 30 years after the events described, author Paul Williams’s memory remains clear and his account of the bravery and foolishness, the stoicism and cruelty and the general dislocation of wartime remains vivid and real.

In recalling his not always smooth passage from a callow, love-lorn youth hopelessly infatuated with an unattainable beauty to a war-weary, disillusioned adult, he does not always paint himself in a heroic light. His book is also more than just the usual nostalgic trawl down memory lane. For one thing he is too honest.

By his own admission a somewhat reluctant soldier, Williams perfectly captures the prevailing air of unreality with his description of his stint, as a medic, at Vila Salazar, a remote, godforsaken, heavily fortified military garrison situated in a no-go zone on the Mozambique border. Left very much to their own devices, its scruffy, laconic residents had long since dispensed with any semblance of military etiqutte or discipline and reverted to their traditional beer and braai lifestyle while the shells continued to explode around them.

As is the case in conflicts of this sort it is often the defenceless who suffer the most. Transferred back to his old company, now on operations in the Matobo Hills, Williams’s moment of personal crisis arrived when he was forced to witness the cold-blooded shooting of an unarmed civilian suspected, on the flimsiest of evidence, of being a “terrorist collaborator”. Sickened by the casual brutality of this act he attempted to lay a charge against his gung-ho Commanding Officer (who, in another incident, had “accidentally” shot one of his own black soldiers while on a training exercise) – a brave but ultimately futile gesture which saw him being hastily re-assigned to another unit.

If this makes the book sound a trifle sombre it is anything but. Williams is a sharp and funny observer with a style that manages to be both tongue-in-cheek and buttonholing at the same time while possessing the kind of wry intelligence that makes you glad he was around to keep tabs on events.

Vividly evocative, this is a wise, colourful and at times touching account of what it was like growing up in a country torn apart by war.

Anthony Stidolph
The Witness


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