Stones for My Father
South Africa, 1900. Twelve-year-old Corlie Roux lives with her mother and brothers on a farm in the Transvaal. It is land the British are determined to take over – there are gold mines nearby. When the farm is torched under the British ‘scorched earth’ policy, Corlie and her family flee. They must catch up with the laager, the wagon train of Boers making for the high veldt, hoping to escape the British by living on the move.
Time is running out. If captured, they will be sent to one of the notorious internment camps set up by the British for women and children.
Corlie has other problems, too. Her beloved father has died and her mother, for reasons Corlie doesn’t understand, dislikes her. Furthermore, her mother is beginning to disapprove of Corlie’s African friend, Sipho, son of one of the farm servants. If war comes, what will happen to Sipho? He’s now old enough to fight.
I was completely gripped by this book. Trilby Kent pulls the reader in close to Corlie; we feel her sadness at the loss of her father, we empathize with her need to escape into the world of the stories she tells her brother, we understand how she gets comfort from the baby vervet monkey she rescues, and we, too, wonder why her strict mother so dislikes her.
The wider world, too, is skilfully drawn: you get a real sense of the African landscape. Later, you are there, with Corlie, as she struggles to survive in the internment camp. Above all, we see that the human spirit is capable of finding comfort and strength in the most unlikely places.
I’d read about the Boer War internment camps before, but this book showed me what it must have felt like to be imprisoned there.
Recommended for girls of 11+.
184 (UK), 200 (US)