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.
The English language publication of Child of the River solidifies Irma Joubert as a unique and powerful voice in historical fiction.
Rating: 5 stars
Child of the River by Irma Joubert was a remarkable read. The talent of the writer was phenomenal. I couldn’t stop reading the novel. The tale inside was so captivating…that I kept on turning the pages. I had to know what happened and how and the why. A young girl grows up in South Africa. Her family is beyond poor. In fact, they live off another’s farm for work. The house is tiny only two rooms. A stealness over bears the senses. The roof barley holing up, and then there’s the dark stuff that happens inside the home. A step-father who bullies his wife and kids. As long as Persomi’s older brother Geraband was there. She was safe from her step-father. Her life gets more interesting. She is soon told by Geraband that their father isn’t their real father. Both share the same mother but different dads. Just as Persomi comes to this idea. She is then set on finding out who her father is.
But then fate takes an interesting twist. Persomi is soon a lead witness against her step-father and Geraband goes to war as a solider thus providing food and money for Persomi and their mother. With these new events happening, Persomi’s life changes forever. She, a dirt poor girl, is soon excelling as fast or faster than the kids who can afford to go to school. Persomi wins scholarships to pay for her high school education. At first the kids don’t like her, because she’s poor, and because of her step-father. But then Persomi ends up winning awards for the best girl in sports. Her grades are good and she makes a new friend Beth. Beth is a girl raised by a reverend and his wife, after her mother died. Both Beth and Persomi have no idea who their fathers are. Persomi is still working on that revelation. However, Irma Joubert keeps readers in suspense. The revelation comes in when readers least expect it. I was surprised at first, but it made sense. I liked how Persomi succeeded despite being humiliated due to a stigma and how she continued to prove to others how wrong they were of her. Persomi’s dream of being a lawyer may work out…love, friendships, betrayal, death, loss, and hope are all tied beautifully inside this read. I loved it. Child of the River is a must read for all. A new historical tale that should be a new classic. Lessons learned and highly entertaining. I was deeply engaged from the beginning to end. Irma Joubert’s novel is the best I have read in quite awhile. OveralL, I highly recommend it to all.