Finished: May 30, 2011
First Published: Mar. 22, 2011
Publisher: Tundra books
Genre: children, historical fiction, war
My mother once told me of a dream she had as a young girl, in the days before the English came.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.
Reason for Reading: In my love of all things Victorian, I enjoy reading historical fiction about the Boer War, especially when it involves the Canadians who fought in the war.
This is a haunting story of the Boer War (fought in what is now South Africa) between the Africaaners (of Dutch descent) and the British. Told through the eyes of a young girl, we are told the behind the scenes side of the war, that of the Boer women and children left alone on the veldt to fend for themselves. Often their homes are burnt to the ground so that they cannot help their soldiers hiding out in the bush and many turn to joining together and forming laager's with their wagons to protect themselves against the British. But eventually, in this losing war, woman and children are rounded up and placed in internment camps for the duration. Corlie's father died of sickness before the war started, so she is left with a mother who hates her for some secret reason and two little brothers, one four years younger and the other a babe in arms.
Quite a tragic tale as we learn of Corlie's life, where the only love she's known came from her now deceased father. She is close to her younger brother and to the African servant boy, but she is getting to an age where her playing with him is now frowned upon. A harsh, mother who obviously loves her brothers and not herself takes them along on their journey away from the British but only to end up under their guard in the interment camp. Corlie does make a secret friend along the way though of a Corporel who looks British only he has a small maple leaf on his uniform to distinguish him as being Canadian. This man pops up several times in Corlie's life and through him we learn the British side of the War.
A well-written, intense story. Tragic, harsh and bittersweet it shows the side of war of those who are not fighting but simply living in the war zone. A quick read, I found quite gripping and enjoyed the character of Corlie who had a rough life yet was a friendly, loving girl with an imagination and a fondness for storytelling. A good read.