Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda, by Rosamond Halsey Carr
Published by Plume, 1st September 2000
Genres: Nonfiction, autobiography, historical, Africa, Rwanda
In 1949, Rosamond journeyed with her new husband from her relatively normal life in New York City to the remote and wild Belgian Congo (today’s Democratic Republic of Congo). On arrival, everything was new and difficult and exciting, but her dream of wedded bliss in an area of natural splendour never really materialised. When the marriage fell apart, Rosamond bravely decided to stay in Africa, a place which had now captured her heart and became the manager of a flower plantation in neighbouring Rwanda.
This book tells the story of her incredible life in Africa, from the trials and wonders of colonial life to the devastating horror of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the struggle to rebuild afterwards.
Throughout her time in Africa, Rosamond made some wonderful friends and partners among the local population and really found her home there.
“I had come to love this land and its people, and I had discovered in myself a strength and passion I never knew I possessed”
I can say that I truly understand this sentiment. There is just something about Africa and her people which captures your heart and soul, you are never the same afterwards and a part of you will always belong in Africa.
I found this memoir very inspirational, as Rosamond sets out on an adventure which, at the time, would have seemed impossible to many of her contemporaries. Not only that, but when her marriage fell apart, she did not return to her family in America, but stayed and made a life for herself. At the time, I imagine that many people, including her ex-husband, would have disapproved of her decision, but she stuck to her guns and became a very important figure in her community, employing hundreds and helping many more.
“Kenneth was livid that I would even consider such an idea. He said it was improper and unseemly, and that I was utterly incapable of handling such an enterprise on my own”
She was a fiercely independent woman and I have an enormous amount of respect for what she achieved; I know that life in Africa is not for the faint-hearted.
Her account of the genocide is possibly quite unique. Although it is a white person’s perspective on a tribal massacre, she was deeply involved in the local community, not only employing many from both sides but also considering them friends and even business partners. Her terror is clearly apparent, as well as her desperate grief at leaving them all behind as she was evacuated along with most of the European population.
However, the joy of reunion and the amazing work she later accomplished, turning her plantation buildings into an orphanage to care for hundreds of displaced and orphaned children, is truly remarkable.
A very inspiring story which I would highly recommend.
My rating: 4/5