In his memoir, Dancing on Bones, Ross Gordon chronicles his experiences of growing up and becoming a white farmer in war-torn Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. Right along with his own story, Gordon brings to us the highs and lows of his beloved country. 

Review

Our very being is intrinsically connected to our motherland. No matter how big we grow or how far we go, the connection of our hearts to the land of our birth always remains. Our homeland shapes us to be the human that we ultimately become. 

Ross Gordon chronicles the story of his life and in the process, the tale of his beloved country in his heart-wrenching book, Dancing on Bones. Being born in the 1960s in Rhodesia, Gordon is part of a generation that has seen it all. Along with the ebbs and flows of life, he has experienced the highs and lows of his birthplace. When Rhodesia declared its independence from the British, it became an unrecognized country under the rule of the white minority. The whites of the nation considered the land to be their homeland and gave their all to protect it. Thus, the long Bush War ensued. Gordon’s father, along with the fathers and brothers of his peers, was a part of the war effort. However, war was not the only defining factor of his childhood. He witnessed his father and grandfather build their farms from the ground up. His grandfather’s love for trees and his father’s innate enthusiasm for new endeavors left a deep impact on him. Right from the beginning of his life, he started loving the land. The kopjes behind his house, the beautiful cave paintings, the rushing water of the Zambezi River, the cliffs, and the flora and fauna of Rhodesia defined his childhood. He always knew that his place was on the land that his father and grandfather cherished. 

Soon, there came a time when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe came to power. Though people tried to be optimistic in the beginning, things changed drastically. In the guise of black empowerment, Mugabe embarked on his path fraught with white racism. The law became what the government deemed right. White farmers were on the verge of losing everything including their very lives, yet the world paid no heed to their plight. Gordon did his best to hold on to his motherland. He fought to the very end to stay in the country that was his. His story keeps us hooked, rooting for him and hoping for a miracle. 

Ross Gordon’s 640-paged book is divided into two parts. While the first part talks about his childhood days in Rhodesia, the second half chronicles his adulthood in Zimbabwe. I was actually well pleased to witness the inquisitive little boy grow up to be a responsible farmer and businessman. 

Dancing on Bones is a book that gives us a rare insight into racism. Many people would scoff at the thought of whites experiencing racism. In fact, when an entire population of whites was wiped out of Zimbabwe nobody around the world batted an eye. Droves of farmers were compelled to leave everything they had and start life anew elsewhere. Those who refused lost their lives. However, the atrocities carried out were justified by saying that the land the whites claimed to be theirs was actually that of the people who were driving them out. This made no sense, especially after witnessing the Gordons build their farms from nothing. Right along with Gordon, I was enraged by the goings-on. In fact, I still cannot understand how people can drive out someone from their home, claim their everything, and still occupy the moral high ground. 

Ross Gordon is a prolific author. His writing style is unusual. The inclusion of his poems as well as poems of his daughters, along with excerpts from diaries and other paraphernalia adds a special touch. His use of the present tense pulls you into the story and makes you feel like a part of his family. Gordon’s father would be one of my favorite people in the story. He embodied the saying, “live life king size.” He gave his all to whatever occupied his fancy at the moment, be it fishing, flying, or beekeeping. It is evident that Ross Gordon holds his father in high regard. The scene where his father offers to teach him flying in exchange for lessons in fly fishing stole my heart. Gordon’s grandfather and grandmother were amazing human beings as well. His mother was resilient. She always did what was best for her children. I found it funny that she always got in the way of animals through no fault of her own. Gordon’s brother seems like an enigma to me. I find myself wanting to know more about him and his sister. Gordon always went on vacations with his family. I like how he compared these with the vacations that he later took with his wife and daughters. His bond with his wife and daughters was adorable as well. Their vacations in the country as well as those abroad make me want to take a vacation with my family. I found their experiences in India to be both eerie and funny. C is the love of his life, and it is quite evident in the way he writes about her. I found the way C handled his reconciliation with H, Gordon’s first girlfriend, to be admirable. 

Dancing on Bones upholds the importance of family. Ross Gordon did his best to protect his ancestors’ legacy. He gave it his all to make sure that no intruders danced on the bones of ancestors. His is a story of perseverance. Even though we know that hoping for a happy ending is futile, we can’t help ourselves from doing so. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Africa. People interested in the true history of Zimbabwe, not the one propagated by the government, should definitely give it a shot. Also, I believe that this would be a great read for lovers of history and memoirs. 

Ross Gordon’s Dancing on Bones is a story of family, love, growing up, and letting go. It is a story of a country’s rise and fall. It is a story that highlights the fact that our homeland is never far from our hearts. The scents, sights, and memories of the land of our childhood would always be buried in our hearts. 

Book Details

  • Title: Dancing on Bones
  • Author: Ross Gordon
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Theme: Memoir, Africa, War
  • Publication Date: 31 August 2022
  • ISBN or ASIN: B0BCPR6RB7
  • Number of Pages: 640
  • Minimum Audience Age: 12

Book Themes

(Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)

  • Sexual themes: 0
  • Religious themes: 1
  • Violence, self-harm, etc.: 1
  • Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: 1
  • Other adult themes: 0

Rating

  • Content: 5 stars
  • Writing Style: 5 stars
  • Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
  • Uniqueness: 5 stars
  • Editing: 5 stars
  • Other factors: 5 stars
  • Overall: 5 out of 5

Featured Book: “Dancing on Bones” by Ross Gordon

Book Details Book Themes (Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive) Synopsis This is the author’s first book and it is a beautifully written account of an African childhood and the difficult decolonization of Rhodesia. Ross Gordon was born in Rhodesia to a white Rhodesian tobacco farmer with a slightly offbeat personality and a British […]

Meet our Author: Ross Gordon

About the author*** Ross Gordon is married to Carolyn, whom he met at Pietermaritzburg University in South Africa. Ross and Carolyn live on a rural property in Tasmania’s beautiful Huon Valley fruit growing region. They have three adult daughters who were all born in Zimbabwe but now live and work in Australia. Ross was born […]


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By Kajori Sheryl Paul

Reading is my passion, and writing is my compulsion. I started reading from a very early age. Since then, I have not stopped. I have garnered this addiction from my father. I have always loved reading his books. As you can see, books are my world. I escape this world to traverse the world of my books. Naturally, I have an affinity to create worlds of my own. There are thoughts constantly swirling in my head. These are the thoughts that I jot down. Sometimes, they become poems while sometimes stories. More often than not, they are just reviews of the plethora of books I read and the things I do.

One thought on “A Book Review by Kajori: “Dancing on Bones” by Ross Gordon”
  1. Africa is such a rich land in the cultural and natural sense of the word… It breaks my heart that it’s also such a troubled region. It takes courage to make a statement about racism against white people, but any kind of racism is dreadful. I honestly didn’t know that was a thing… which comes to show I need to read this book. And also, how fabulous and engaging your reviews are.