So, "tomorrow" turned into longer than the usual. I have no excuse other than that December is busy getting ready for Christmas, and the first part of January is busy putting everything away after Christmas and getting back into the swing of things.
But it's time for another Friday(-ish) Forward, and this week's forward is Trilby Kent's stunning and moving Middle Grade novel, Stones For My Father. Here's the blurb: Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy: the Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter. Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend, Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers.
But Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms. Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy. The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps.
Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor she finds in the camp at Kroonstad? That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had…
This book was awarded the 2012 TD Children's Literature Award, so I was really looking forward to reading it. Set in South Africa during the Boer War, Stones For My Father introduces us to Corlie, a heroine with nerve, smarts, compassion, and an abundance of courage. There is a lot to recommend this book.
I found the portrayal of Corlie's relationship with her younger brother Gert, wavering between part jealous sibling and part loving caretaker, to be spot on. I also loved the description of the landscape: the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the Transvaal came alive in this book. The development of the relationship between Corlie and the Canadian soldier was expertly handled, especially in the final chapters of the story, and the details of life in Corlie's community, and then in the internment camp where her family is sent, are fascinating and horrifying.
I did feel let down a bit by the language - there are a lot of foreign terms used that never quite get explained, and even now I am not sure what they mean, which is unsettling and, for me as a reader, frustrating. I love it when novels employ words and phrases unique to a certain time or place, but not having them explained in the moment leaves me with an incomplete picture of the scene in my mind. Additionally, I would have liked the explanation for the hostility that Corlie's mother displays so openly towards her to come sooner than it did, and more subtly.
However, this is still a very well written book. It takes a subject that is rarely discussed in detail, and brings it out into the open in a way that had me reaching for my history books. And that, in my mind, spells success.
STONES FOR MY FATHER is available in bookstores, or online at IndieBound here, Amazon here, and for my Canadian readers, ChaptersIndigo here.
Go forth and read! Happy Sunday!