In 1978, during the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, Lauren St John’s family moved to Rainbow’s End, a beautiful farm on the banks of a flowing river. Shy and horse-obsessed, eleven-year-old St John lived in an African idyll until the killing of a school friend and the coming of Zimbabwean Independence forced her to confront the past, and to realize that almost everything she had believed about her country and her life had been a lie.

“Packed with so much of Africa’s sights, smells, and sounds that the place – beloved, beautiful, and troubled – practically seeps from its pages.”

Chicago Tribune

“Lovingly recalled... St John powerfully conveys the implosion of her moral world, her complex disillusionment and her hard decision to leave this snake-rich Eden [Zimbabwe] . This book covers similar ground to Alexandra Fuller’s "Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight", but has a much stronger sense of the dramatic political context.”

Theo Hobson, The Sunday Times

“The starkly honest memoirs of a white Rhodesian who, after idealising her childhood on the family farm, was forced to face up to the racist, violent truth of her society.”

Financial Times

“Striding tall through Lauren St John’s gorgeously written memoir is her father, and chapter after chapter their relationship is untangled and celebrated. Joy and a hunger for life infuse this book – whether St John is writing about the harrowing years of Rhodesia’s civil war, her childhood adventures in the bush, or the breaking apart of her family. Rainbow’s End is a most generous and wise book.”

Lisa Fugard, author of SKINNER'S DRIFT,

“  Engrossing... Rainbow’s End is wonderfully told in a haunting, lyrical prose, full of pathos and humour, as seen through the eyes of a young girl on her journey to womanhood and understanding.  ”

Paul Hopkins, Irish Independent

“Rainbow’s End is a lyrical, haunting story of family, love, and loss in a land as dangerous as it is beautiful.”

Jeanette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE,

“  St John’s recollections of a mid-1970s girlhood have the engaging intimacy of Anne of Green Gables, counterpointed by the drumbeats of war in the background... [She] was sensitive to—and portrays here in revealing detail—the nuances of manners and protocols practiced between whites and Africans, particularly as they slowly began to unravel in the ratcheting tension... Articulates a dream and a love of Africa that makes Zimbabwe’s fate under Robert Mugabe seem all the more cruel.”

Starred Review, KIRKUS

“Astonishingly evocative and wonderfully well written. It has two other qualities – humour and a lack of pretension… Rainbow’s End is precise, evocative and funny. Even as the Smith regime crumbles, as Mugabe waits to exact revenge and you know disillusionment is going to follow, you are irresistibly drawn into this personal story . . . A fine book.”

Justin Cartwright, Critic's Choice, Daily Mail

“The break-up of her family is at the heart of her story, but it’s the lyrical celebration of African landscape that really marks this one out.”

Conde Naste Traveller

“A gripping account … told with depth and humour. St John comes of age amid a harrowing civil war and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage.”


“This memoir works on many levels. It is a spot-on account of coming of age in the 1970s, at once universal and intensely African. It also raises questions about the moral gymnastics of the time… Above all, this is a memoir of a country. It is a love letter to a harsh yet beautiful land, with invigorating prose soaked in African sunshine. Its poignancy stems from the way in which Lauren’s attempts to work out who she is parallel her beloved nations’ struggle to do the same.  ”

Lucy Beresford, New Statesman

“The author of several biographies, St. John now turns her eye toward her own African childhood. The daughter of a white soldier and his spirited wife, Lauren was excited when her family left South Africa for Rhodesia in the mid-1970s. Her father longed to fight again as he had in his youth, and Lauren found herself as caught up in it as he was. When several members of a nearby family, including a boy in Lauren's class, are murdered by insurgents, Lauren and her family move into their farm home, Rainbow's End. The farm is a child's paradise: a giraffe Lauren christens Jenny roams the land, and Lauren rides her stubborn horse, Charm, around the vast grounds. But peril is everywhere, as deadly snakes slither around and sometimes inside the house, and terrorists prowl in the nighttime. When the war comes to an end and Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe, Lauren finds herself an outsider in her country. Lush descriptions of both the terrain and the war distinguish St. John's moving memoir.”

Kristine Huntley, Booklist

“Highly evocative … a world of striking colours and childhood experiences … It is a tableau, too, in which the author slowly awakens, becoming aware – at last – of the vast fault lines running through her own society, the suffocating closeness and strange social codes of the small rural communities in which her family moves …This is a beautifully written book, much of it taken up with a child’s longing for nature and the bonds she forms with the animals around her. It’s hard not to be drawn in by St John’s warm use of language and description, painting a tapestry of innocence, while the brutal reality of life encroaches into the travesty which is now modern Zimbabwe.    ”

Nick Ryan, Daily Express

“A girls-eye-view of life in 1970s Rhodesia: as powerful as Alexandra Fuller’s classic "Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight".”

The Sunday Times

“Like the African water sprite Tokoloshe, this book has many forms. It is, first, St John’s account of her 1970s childhood in what was then Rhodesia. She captures the pre-lapsarian illusion of life for whites then, and gives us a child’s view of the civil war that began to break those dreams. Her account of life after Zimbabwe assumed statehood in 1980 is proof perfect of the saying that if the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man, the second was his departure. St John touches the common chord of Zimbabweans: "Perhaps the only language [they know] to be united in; the language of grief". But there is also love and joy. In fine prose St John catches the quick of "the blue heavens, the soil a fiery meld of the vermillion blossoms of the Kaffirboom tree". Beyond the violence and the terrible tragedy of her country she brings us "the ordinary people of Zimbabwe…as gentle as Inyanga rain". This is a paean of praise for what Zimbabwe has lost, but might find again. It is also a heart-rending account of the searing, slow dissolution of a marriage. In this case it is of St John’s parents, but in its particulars she finds the universal. It is a testament to the power of love, rough hew it as we may. This is an important book, worth reading for many reasons.”

Ross Leckie, The Times

“The coming-of-age story St John tells in her memoir is at once beautiful and starkly truthful. Her writing is captivating, her book a must-read for those interested in the story of the ever-evolving continent of Africa.”

The Anniston Star