The Farm traces a family’s legacy and their story back to the 1700s to Antonio Albasini, who made a fateful trip to Portugal where he married a lady with noble connections. Their descendants traveled to southern Africa, where they eventually set up a farming property in what was then Southern Rhodesia. The government eventually took over the farm in 1972 as part of an effort to encourage local native farming. In 2008, family members returned to view the remains of the farm and remember the people who had once resided there. The property was never forgotten by the descendants. The memories of these times and the affinity for the ancestors who led intriguing and exciting lives as they migrated to the African continent moved the author to tell the fascinating story in this book.
As someone who has tried and sometimes failed to follow the trail of ancestors, often to find they vanished in the American South’s wilderness, never to be found again, I appreciated the research that went into finding the stories of Antonio Albasini’s descendants. I loved that the author included funny and interesting anecdotes from the lives of family and friends. Particularly memorable was the one about the lady bitten by a snake in the outhouse which sent her straight to the nearest doctor, only to find out later it wasn’t a snake but a harmless chicken. Also, I cannot fathom the coach journey Anna Albasini Hazelhurst took through the Limpopo region in a mule-drawn carriage. Just one afternoon through the West African bush in a Peugeot was enough for me. The idea of traveling four hundred miles to what was then Fort Salisbury in fourteen days must have been nearly unbearable. I like that the author explains both the rich history of the time and gives detailed accounts about how the people were forging ahead, creating a home wherever they found themselves. It also showed how there was often a sense of community in remote areas that attracted diverse migrants.
One of the best bits about this book was the numerous photos and documents the author included. It allowed me to really imagine what these people experienced in their daily lives. I think the book is a heartfelt, lovely tribute to a family that went through both adventurous times and hardships. And, the warmth and humor the author used to recount their journey made this an enjoyable read.
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