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The Story Of An African Farm
by Olive Schreiner
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From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
Renowned as a pioneering effort of South African literature, The Story of An African Farm was a work strongly influenced by nineteenth-century British traditions, filled with extended philosophical discussions, characters reminiscient of Charles Dickens, and an almost complete silence on the issue of race relations. But for all its Victorian attributes, the novel is a landmark in many ways. First is the setting in the rural South African landscape which Olive Schreiner evokes in all its bleakness and beauty, a fitting backdrop for the spiritual and philosophical development of Lyndall and Waldo, two soulmates who unceasingly search for truth throughout their lives. Their quest is frustrated - in Lyndall's case by gender restrictions and for Waldo by social position. The novel is also significant for Lyndall's character. Her forthright feminism, her refusal to alter her principles and her determination not to marry her lover despite her pregnancy make her a noteworthy female character in nineteenth century literature. In the end, the book has an uneven quality, but it is important both for its place in literary history and for the moments when it soars in its descriptions and philosophical revelations. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
Paula M. Krebs, Wheaton College
This edition is an important achievement.
1927. A classic story of rural life in 19th Century South Africa, it is a searing indictment of the rigid Boer social conventions. The first of the great South African novel chronicles the adventures of three childhood friends who defy societal repression. The novel's unorthodox views on religion and marriage aroused widespread controversy upon its 1883 publication, and the work retains in power more than a century later.
At last came the year of the great drought, the year of eighteen-sixty-two. From end to end of the land the earth cried for water. Man and beast turned their eyes to the pitiless sky, that like the roof of some brazen oven arched overhead. On the farm, day after day, month after month, the water in the dams fell lower and lower; the sheep died in the fields; the cattle, scarcely able to crawl, tottered as they moved from spot to spot in search of food.
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