Praise for Diana's Novels

Whitewashed Jacarandas & Full of Possibilities

..engrossing, informative, and well-written narrative!

Anne Dean 

As an historical fiction writer myself, I know the challenges of infusing life into characters whose lives have already been lived, and about whom historians typically have a mere scattering of dates and defining events. It helps to have been part of the characters' lives and to have lived the experiences written about in the novel. This obviously is true about Diana Polisensky's novel, Whitewashed Jacarandas, which by the way, is a perfect title for the book. It is an engrossing, informative, and well-written narrative that immerses the reader in intertwined stories of relationships and politics, replete with exceptional descriptions of the physical, especially horticultural, environment. The book kept my attention to the very end. I look forward to the next volume, though ideally I would not have to wait for the next, and then the next and the next.

Looking forward to the next one!

Jana Bek

A  great talent....Wonderful descriptions that set the scene and take me back to the old days as a child. You have a great talent here and am looking forward to the next vol.

Loved the book!

Hilton Kobus, June 1, 2016, AU

I loved the book  and have passed it on to my children who live in Canberra.  I have also publicised your book to ex Zimbabweans in Australia. It brought back many memories of those days in Que Que.  I was aware of your mother’s work to get the swimming pool built.  It was a major social venue when I was a teenager. The train passing through at 2am reminded me of my journeys to Natal as a student.  There was such optimism for the future of Que Que around mining and steel and the book portrayed this so well.  People of our age group who grew up in Que Que and in fact throughout Rhodesia are now scattered all over the world.  Maybe it was meant to be.  It made me think of all the people I knew at school and I wonder where they all are.

Wonderful book!

Albert Alhadeff May 29, 2016, Switzerland

I particularly like the fact that the author doesn’t preach or give opinions, but just tells a story. In doing so the reader can make up his own mind about what is said. I was born in Rhodesia but left over 40 years ago. The descriptions are so accurate, they bring back many memories. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book

Truly gifted...

Johanne Christmas, April 13, 2016, US

Truly gifted.  It is truly amazing to me to see how some things never change... And you truly are gifted at pointing this out to your readers. As I saw the last pages begin to shrink in number, I began to read slower and slower, as if (smile) this could actually make a difference and keep the last page from ending. And then there it was... The "Author's Note" Looking forward to Book Two & another "to-die-for" recipe. The recipe card is a special touch.

Couldn't stop reading!

Molly Mcmahon. May 6, 2016, US

Wonderful! I loved this book. I was impressed with the charm of the story and the place…once I started I just could not stop reading. I plan to buy more books to give away to my family.

Enjoyed so much!

Dora Dunkley, May 21, 2016, SA

Astoundingly well researched. I was really fascinated at all the detail assembled and enjoyed the book so much.

Can't wait for the second book!

Sally G Jenningson May 20, 2016

A great look at life in a small town in Africa, just after the war. Can't wait for the second book to come out. The book is based on the real life experiences of the author, which adds depth and insight.

Wonderful journey!

Tess Harris, April 28, 2016, NZ

A great read! Especially for anyone who lived in central Southern Rhodesia at that time.  A wonderful journey back into my childhood. I loved the short chapters. This made the book easy to pick up or put down at will.  I occasionally skipped some of the narrative between the Jewish ladies, but otherwise eagerly followed the lives of Dr. Sunny Rubenstein and his cronies. Diana has brought them all to life and I look forward to the next installment.

Like watching a movie!

Francis O'Sullivan on March 5, 2016

The authors descriptive ability is truly amazing, it's akin to watching a movie. One cannot but help visualize the small sleepy town of Umzimtuti being stirred to life by her portrayal of the two main characters Sunny and Mavourneen as they battle the complacency of the town folk, the indifference of the gold mine that spawned the town, racial and ethnic bigotry and their own relationship stretched to the limit. She keeps your senses reeling. Like the proverbial snowball, once you start reading it's hard to stop.

Waiting for the next in the series!

Amazon Customer on 15 January 2016

A most readable and engaging account of a young doctor ... A most readable and engaging account of a young doctor and his wife establishing a life for their family in small town Rhodesia after WWII. It incorporates interesting social and political history, describing characters, places and events in a lively and interesting way. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

This book should be on every book club's list!

Sharon Drews  US on September 6, 2015

This book really captivated me. It was interesting to read about life in Africa beyond safaris. Ms. Polisensky has done a marvelous job of portraying the struggles of a young couple raising a family and building a medical career in a foreign and complex culture. I can't wait for more books from this author.

Enjoy the journey!

Betty Goolsby US on September 11, 2015

I fell completely under Ms. Polisensky's spell as she wove her tale of post WWII British Colonial Rhodesia. Reading her work felt like going to the Saturday afternoon matinee- every vignette, a cliff hanger- I was compelled to keep reading! Her knowledge of the Bush, the political atmosphere, and the incredible mix of personalities in Umzimtuti was so entertaining, yet educational. I am looking forward to finding out more about the Rubenstein family and the awakening of the tiny town of Umzimtuti, as the author pens her next volume.

An excellent read!

Vanessa Shapiro SA on August 28, 2015

I loved the book. It’s a real page-turner and I couldn't put it down. Easy to read but with interesting social commentary and historical facts as well as realistic characters.


Whitewashed Jacarandas may take you to a continent far away, nearly 70 years ago and every moment, relatable today!

Rocky Blumhagen  US on September 4, 2015

It has been awhile since I've read a fictional novel. The character development and dialogue are terrific and I found myself cheering and at the same time fearing some of the choices Ms. Polisensky's characters were making. I learned a great deal about Rhodesia and what it must have been like post WW II creating a new society in South Africa. I could tell the book was well researched and I couldn't help thinking this may have been in part the author's true story. I read the book in three sittings, I just couldn't put it down. I like the short chapters, the plots develop so quickly and there are multiple story lines with various characters. It would be a terrific book on a long flight. Since this is Book One, I am thrilled, I want the story to continue unfolding about Umzimtuti, how can you not love a book where the main town is called, Umzimtuti!!


Loved the description of the countryside and the people of Umzimtuti...

Lynne Cushenberry US on September 15, 2015

I read this book with some trepidation, as I'm not one for family sagas. What a delightful surprise to read an engaging history of a family and a nation's growth after WWII. It was a learning experience since I knew little of the history of Rhodesia and nothing about their involvement during and after the war. Loved the description of the countryside and the people of Umzimtuti, the smallest municipality in the world. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long before the next installment.


I read Whitewashed Jacarandas and loved it. Each time I picked it up I was immersed in the story...

Sandy Salomon US on September 5, 2015

Lots of action and problems for a young English Doc in a tiny town in early Rhodesia. Wonderful description and great dialogue. Also intelligent bits of the politics and discrimination of the time. Can't wait for the next volume to come out.


Foreign Fascination

By Doranne  US on October 4, 2015

Whitewashed Jacarandas is a fascinating read! I love Diana's attention to detail in describing post WWII British Colonial Rhodesia. Her dialogue is delightful as she captures the various groups of people who struggled to create a cohesive life in an often foreign frontier. As I lived in Nigeria in 1966-68 I can relate to her vivid sights, sounds, and smells of Africa. However as I was a child, I missed most of the class, cultural, ethnic, and political clashes, but appreciate Diana sharing these memories with the rest of the world.


I think you will enjoy this book.

Peter J. Staelens US on November 6, 2015

I spent 8 years in southern Africa and this novel made me feel like I was re-living that period in my own life. Although my arrival in Africa was 2 decades after the years covered in Diana's story, she has certainly captured the essence of what it was like to live in Rhodesia during that critical time in its history. In subtle ways the doctor in her story shows signs of understanding that change is coming. He's a fascinating character. I'm looking forward to future installments to see how he navigates life as the world and the people around him change.


Fascinating Book... Engrossing story!

Marcella Carmen  UK on 16 September 2015

A young Jewish doctor and his English wife learn to cope with primitive conditions, xenophobia and Nature in Africa.

This is a fascinating book with an engrossing story which is beautifully written. Based on British colonial days in what was then Rhodesia, I recommend it to anyone whether they lived there or not. I was given the book as a present, and I will definitely buy Book Two and Book Three when they come out. I cannot wait to see what happens to the future of the young couple who are the protagonists of Whitewashed Jacarandas.


Well written with good descriptions. Well done

Wendy  Astrup  SA on 2 October 2015

A thoroughly enjoyable book.

Well written with good descriptions.

Well done Diana!


Can't wait for the second book...

Evelyn Brookhyser  US on September 10, 2015

The writing style was engaging and the story kept me tuned in. I got a new insight into racism for Jews in Africa. I can't wait for the second book to come out.


Evocative... Good read...

Mamie Livingstone on January 18, 2016

I have enjoyed Diana’s Whitewashed Jacarandas. Having been born and grown up in the Jacarandas’ milieu, and having had the good fortune to have “Sonny” [Diana’s father] as my doctor, I can relate to practically everything that emerges in the writing. It is quite evocative of those bygone days, and the narrative reads well. I remember Diana's family well including her mother - a leading light of the guiding world and grande dame of the amateur theatre. Overall, this is a good read for all, but especially for those of us who grew up in the Rhodesia of the 1940s to 1960s. I look forward to the second episode and am sure it will be just as nostalgia-inducing as Part 1.


A Remarkably detailed tour de force...

Gerald Clarkson former reporter, Reuters, Financial Times of Canada

'Whitewashed Jacarandas' by Diana Polisensky is a remarkably detailed tour de force portraying life in a tough gold mining community in Southern Rhodesia from 1946. That is prior to Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence and the advent of Zimbabwe with the murderous regime of Robert Mugabe.

The author, now living in Oregon, USA, grew up in a medical family in the colony. She says the book marks the first installment in a saga chronicling the end of the colonial experience in that region. Although this is pitched as a novel there seems to be a lot of apparently autobiographical material woven in.

Ms Polisensky is clearly an admirer of Sir Edgar Whitehead, prime minister ,1958-62, and statesman of international stature. She tells how Whitehead advised the novel's hero, Dr Sunny Rubenstein – who was looking for a medical appointment – to take a chance on Southern Rhodesia's exciting growth potential.

Whitehead and Rubenstein were sharing a compartment on a long nocturnal rail journey. “I drew up a financial plan for Southern Rhodesia before the war (WW2) broke out,” said Whitehead, “and prime minister Huggins had me refine it while I was holed up incognito at a hotel....between assignments during the war.” He noted that the government had purchased a lime and iron works close to the Cheetah gold mine which the train was heading for.

“If Huggins can win another term it'll be big – I'll see to it that plenty of money is made available. Get in on the ground floor,” he urged Dr Sunny. Whitehead envisaged a major steel complex developing on the site. “It'll be the industrial hub of the country with a model residential community.”

The tale then focuses on Sunny Rubenstein's quest for medical work at the Cheetah gold mine where a rough and tough community lacked competent medicine. And in a jiffy the existing doctor – who desperately wanted to find a post somewhere else –commits an act of gross fraud on Dr Sunny. He sells him the Cheetah practice for £2,000 when in fact the practice belonged to the mining company.

Dr Sunny takes up the job and soon discovers the nature of the place. The mine manager tells him, “You know the Natives are lazy bastards – always looking for a way to slough off. That's your main job, you know, to weed out the loafers at Sick see cutting corners makes all the difference to British shareholder returns. That's how you survive.”

There were no clinical records, surgery was virtually impossible, no anesthetics skills, and TB sufferers were simply sent home.

But by dint of enormously hard work and risky lobbying for funds Dr Sunny manages to modernise the facilities and upgrade the nursing staff.

The underlying tale – Dr Sunny's relationship with a beautiful and long suffering wife – comes to a happy ending. But only after abrupt confrontations and perhaps the rudest and most conceited letters ever penned by a husband.


An Epic First Book!

Dave Bloom  IL on December 20, 2015

This semi-fictional novel is set in post-war colonial Rhodesia and as I was born and grew up in that country during the 1950s and 1960s I felt a strong sense of familiarity and identity with many of the names and places mentioned by Diana Polisensky. I have been a follower of her excellent writings on her well known blog which describes the small provincial town of Que Que where she was born and grew up. Que Que was located in the midlands of Rhodesia and in the Zimbabwe of today is known as known as KweKwe. Ms Polisensky has written an epic first book and chose the name Umzimtuti for the small town setting where a young couple decide to make their first home and start of (his) medical career in that town. I could not help but connect the dots back to the author's father's own medical practice in Que Que to understand where she has collected such impeccable and detailed descriptions of the challenges facing medical practitioners in those years. Ms Polisensky's attention to detail and research in describing the pervading British lifestyle of the white colonials in Rhodesia with its multiple layers of racism and antisemitism is in my view the very revealing non-fictional dimension to the book. Her description of the small-town politics of the day and the visit by the King and Queen of England together with the crown princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to Rhodesia in the late 1940s is written with mixed awe and respect with a tinge of understated symbolism. Ms Polisensky's description of the relationship of the young couple Dr Sunny and Mavourneen Rubenstein (he is Jewish, she not) in handled with great pathos as they fall victim to the strains of his dedication to work, the social pressures as well as prejudices of the day. "The Government isn't hiring Jewish GMO's let alone Indians" is just one of many references in the book to those real life challenges in a town where there were probably no more than 20 Jewish families and immigration quotas existed preventing other Jews from entering the country.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand or even reminisce the times, mindset and atmosphere of that era in colonial Africa and especially in Rhodesia. Ms Polisensky has produced a uniquely well written perspective and I look forward to her next book.


A Very Entertaining Read...

Marilyn Southey UK

The author writes of these both from a Rhodesian perspective and from the point of view of people of Europe who had just come through a great war and other horrific experiences.

I must first declare an interest, as someone who was brought up in Southern Rhodesia in the same era as the author and whose father greatly admired the author’s father, reading this book both awakened many memories of my childhood and opened my eyes to things I hadn’t seen.

This is a very entertaining read at many levels. The book’s hero is a doctor on a large African gold mine and tells of the challenges he faced, not only in the field of medicine (as a layman I found the descriptions of various medical procedures and diseases most interesting) but in his dealings with management, colleagues, neighbours and patients. The wider setting is the mining, farming and the general social landscape of that time. The author writes of these both from a Rhodesian perspective and from the point of view of people of Europe who had just come through a great war and other horrific experiences only to find they were not always welcome in this new land of promise. Racism in a number of forms played its part. Through research of each subject in depth, the author is able to bring to the reader a feel and sense of colonial Rhodesia, from the characters of the story and the national and social political climate of the time to the African bush and the numerous wild animals which then roamed that part of the country

On lighter aspects Diana describes, in careful detail, many of the occasions where the people congregate for special events - from the clothing they wore, down to the very sandwich fillings. I can easily capture the scene in my mind’s eye from the rich tapestry she weaves with her words.

Not least, the story line is compulsive and I eagerly look forward to Diana’s next book.


A gripping story...

Birmingham, UK

I don't have much time for reading novels, and did not enjoy literature or history at school (being more of a maths and science kid), so I have little basis for writing a review of a novel. But having now seen glowing reviews of the book on both and, I thought I should say that, on the basis of no expertise, only my own enjoyment, I agree with all the praise.

I read this because my life overlapped with Diana's family's presence in our small town in Rhodesia, though I did not get to know her as I was several years older and mostly away at boarding school and university. But the book both brought back memories and taught me things I did not know about my home town and country of birth -- last visited over half a century ago.

Apart from that it was a well-written gripping story. I think future volumes should come with a glossary of non-English words used, several of which I had not encountered as a child or had forgotten, though that was not a major obstacle.

As Gerald Clarkson's comprehensive review indicates, the backdrop to the novel is the history and politics of Southern Rhodesia, some time before it became Zimbabwe. I don't know if there is any readily available readable history of that period, but if there is, for some readers it could enhance understanding of some of the background themes in the book.

My wife, whom I met in the UK and has never visited Rhodesia/Zimbabwe also found it gripping and enjoyable.


Excellent... A must-read!

William Kaulback, NZ on January 18, 2016

Not only is this an excellent story, it is a must-read for anyone who grew up in Africa in the late nineteen-forties and fifties for it paints an excellent picture of small-town Rhodesia during those years.

While “Whitewashed Jacarandas” is a novel it is also a biography of life in Que Que (now spelled Kwekwe), during a time of large-scale immigration from Europe and rapid development of the country. It pays tribute to the small number of Jewish immigrants, who played such a large part in the country’s growth and many of the prominent citizens from those early years are easily recognized.

The main characters are the Rubenstein family. Sunny is recently de-mobbed and accepts a job as doctor at the gold mine, around which the town has developed. It is noteworthy that the real mine, the Globe & Phoenix, had the double distinction of yielding one of the world’s highest grades of gold ore and the longest lasting case in English legal history. Sunny, the newcomer with his modern ideas and drive for change, is resisted by many of the original inhabitants but persists to the benefit of all. Sunny’s wife, Mavourneen, a skilled nurse is not allowed to practice and struggles with being a housewife; so she channels her energy into social work and gaining acceptance in the community.

This all sounds mundane. However, the reader will not be disappointed because there is plenty of drama and tension; life in those days was unpredictable and often dangerous. I found the story compelling and wanted to keep on reading. I am much looking forward to further books in the series.


Well written, interesting and easy to read story

Tim Hughes  AU on 22 September 2015

Readers of Whitewashed Jacarandas can enjoy the story and learn about Rhodesia in the 1940's. The steam train journey by Dr. Sunny Rubenstein, south from Salisbury soon after WWII, sets the scene for this historical fiction. Diana Polisensky has produced a well written, interesting and easy to read story where Dr. Sunny takes up residence in Umzimtuti in the middle of Rhodesia. The town is dominated by the Cheetah Gold Mine and the diverse population depends on it for their survival. I was born in Rhodesia before World War II and can easily relate to every part of Whitewashed Jacarandas. I am sure that all who read this book will enjoy the story and learn from it. This is book 1 of The Umzimtuti Series and all of Diana's readers will be waiting impatiently for book 2.


A Great Read!

Antoinette US  on October 7, 2015

A great read. Well done to the authoress

For those of us who lived in and through that time, a great read. Well done to the authoress.