Flowers in the Sand

Written by Clive Algar
Review by Laura Lloyd

Set during the Boer War, Flowers in the Sand follows the lives of Boer Commandant Manie Smit and South African civilian Emma Richardson. Manie joins the Boer forces at 41, leaving his wife and five children to manage the family ranch. Despite news of his father’s imprisonment in the Potchefstroom concentration camp, Manie forges ahead in the battle against the British, and his determination is reinforced when tragedy strikes.

Raised in poverty and neglect by her grandmother and alcoholic father, Emma considers herself lucky to marry Charlie Richardson, a kind, patient, hardworking man who loves her dearly. When Charlie is offered a foreman’s position and salary at the O’okiep copper mine, the couple moves to the Namaqualand village—where Charlie’s untimely death leaves Emma with few options. She is coerced into prostitution, and when O’okiep is besieged by Boer guerillas, one of her regulars, British officer James Carlisle, offers Emma a possible solution to her problems.

Algar artfully blends fictional and historical figures in order to show objectively the effects of the Boer War on all involved—South African and British alike. Flowers in the Sand is engrossing and moves along at a brisk pace, bogged down only occasionally by war scenes in the middle section. Readers unfamiliar with this piece of South African history will find the book especially interesting. (author website: