Monday, December 5, 2016
Child of the River- Irma Joubert
Description: Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.
Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.
A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.
My Thoughts: This is an absolutely fantastic book. I can't remember a novel that has ever left me teary eyed before this one, and I usually hate any that have brought me even close because the characters lives where typically futile, with little hope in the end. But even though Persomi's childhood, and even parts of her adult life, where heartbreaking, there were very few moments which felt hopeless.
Persomi is the kind of person who never lets life crush her. Though she has her broken moments, she soon rallies and moves forward, refusing to back down from her convictions. Dealing with the politics of WWII, in which Irma realistically portrays a society which more or less sided with the Germans, and Apartheid, Child of the River not only shows a woman with incredible strength of character but also revels a time in history where social strife mirrored current social issues in the US.
Originally published in 2010, there is no way the author could have foreseen just how relevant this work would be years later and in another language. But I think that this book can teach a lot about holding on to ones own convictions while still putting major differences aside to love and care for those around us.
I highly recommend this work, both for the history and for Persomi herself. I can't wait to see more of Irma's novels translated and will be eagerly looking for them on shelves.
I have provided an honest review of this novel after having received a free copy of this book from the publisher.