Book Review: Child of The River

25 Sep

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.

Persomi is young, white, and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. 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, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.

Persomi’s close relationship with her older brother Gerbrand and her fragile friendship with Boelie Fourie—heir to the Fourie farm and fortune — are her lifeline and her only connection to the outside world. When Gerbrand leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII and Boelie joins an underground network of Boer nationalists, 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, a native country that values justice and equality, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her — the tragedies of war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland — she finally discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life — and every life — matters.

A graduate of the University of Pretoria, Irma Joubert was a high school teacher for 35 years before retiring in 2004 to focus on her writing. The following year, while working as a freelance journalist, she was the recipient of the Media24 award for Specialist Journalist of the Year and was a finalist in the Mondi journalism awards.

Joubert’s current literary focus is on historical novels. Her Tussen stasies trilogy, consisting of Ver wink die SuiderkruisTussen stasies en Tolbos, together with her Pontenilo trilogy: Anderkant PonteniloPérsomi, and Kronkelpad, have all been translated into Dutch, and have all featured among the Top 10 best sellers on publication.

Tussen stasies has been translated into German and in 2015 was published in English by US publisher Harper Collins under the title The Girl from the Train. She is currently writing the second book in her third trilogy. (from Wikipedia)


My Impressions:

Child of The River by Irma Joubert is one of the best novels I have ever read, and when I found that a second novel had been translated into English, I was excited to introduce this talented author to my book club. Child of The River again transports the reader to South Africa, this time spanning 30 years beginning in the pre-WWII years. Beautifully written, this novel is a hard book to read — abuse, prejudice, and nationalized separation of races — but has an underlying theme of hope in the face of injustice. My book club liked the book and appreciated the glimpse into a bygone time and foreign land.

Persomi is a the daughter of a bywoner or sharecropper in the bushveld of South Africa. She looks on the lives of real people with the dream of one day being part of their world. A strong girl becomes a determined woman who faces head-on the unjust treatment and unfair laws of her country.

The story is filled with compelling and complex characters, some we loved, others not so much. Women as portrayed in the novel are especially irritating, and there were a few we wished we could have shaken! The men are treated a bit more kindly with a few earning our admiration. Persomi is the main character, and we loved her sense of right and wrong, her desire to protect the underdog, and her gentle, yet firm manner in dealing with hard situations. There is also a love story that we loved, hated, and ultimately rejoiced in. The novel is published by Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, and while it did not have an overt faith message, it was heavily influenced by the author’s Christian worldview.

My book club and I really liked Child of The River, and welcome further translations of Joubert’s novels.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

4 Responses to “Book Review: Child of The River”

  1. Susan September 26, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    I’m definitely going to check this one out! It sounds SO good.


    • rbclibrary September 26, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

      This book and her Girl from The Train are excellent!


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