A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.
Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.
Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.
The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.
I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury Publishing in return for an honest review.
This book based on historical events and entities evokes disturbing, and resonating images for its readers. Colonialism in South Africa during the early twentieth century is seen through the eyes of Sarah, interned in a camp by the British during the Boer War, in the wake of a scorched earth policy. Sarah’s diary gives an astute, poignant and thought-provoking insight into her exposure to the war and subsequent imprisonment, with her young son. It exposes a dark side of humanity, that is sobering. The two sides of being human are exposed, through the riveting prose.
Forced to stay at a camp by his mother and her partner, Willem’s life, in 2010, is a living nightmare, difficult to read, but horrors that need bringing into the light.
This story exposes and informs eloquently, the writing style makes the content easy to absorb, and the vivid images portrayed are hard to forget.
Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher’s Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books ‘Satire’ Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award. Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel. Damian Barr lives in Brighton. @Damian_Barr