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The Story of an African Farm (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 24, 1983


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (February 24, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140431845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140431841
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This excellent edition of The Story of an African Farm allows us to read the novel in its important social, political, and literary contexts. Along with its thorough overview of the novel's place in turn-of-the-century views on gender and race, the text's introduction contributes a long-overdue focus on Schreiner and Victorian political economy. Readers will value the extensive appendices, which allow us to see the novel not only as an innovative narrative but also as a key intervention in social, political, and religious debates that affected Britain and its empire. This edition is an important achievement." (Paula M. Krebs ) --Paula M. Krebs --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

The Story of an African Farm (1883) marks an early appearance in fiction of Victorian society's emerging New Woman. The novel follows the spiritual quests of Lyndall and Waldo, who each struggle against social constraints in their search for happiness and truth: Lyndall, against society's expectations of women, and Waldo against stifling class conventions. Written from the margins of the British empire, the novel addresses the conflicts of race, class, and gender that shaped the lives of European settlers in Southern Africa before the Boer Wars. This Broadview edition includes appendices that link the novel to histories of empire and colonialism, the emergence of the New Woman, and the conflicts between science and religion in the Victorian period. Contemporary reviews are also included. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Its a beautiful story.
Captplus3
I found myself unable to put the book down and finished it in just a couple nights.
Shawn A. Palmer
This is striking thing about the story is its deep portrayal of women .
Calixthe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sharon VDH on June 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Story of an African Farm" is a difficult work to describe. It must be read several times, and carefully pondered before all of its secrets are unlocked.

Ostensibly, the book revolves around the lives of three children (and, later, adults) who live in the Karroo plains of South Africa. The main focus, however, is on two of the characters - Waldo, the earnest and deeply curious son of the German farmkeeper, and Lyndall, the beautiful, outspoken and rebellious orphan who suffers all her life for her ideals.

The book itself is semi-autobiographical. Waldo represents Schreiner's journey from fanatical, childlike faith to bitter skepticism, who reaches a watershed of sorts when he hisses to Lyndall 'There is no God - none!'. Lyndall, on the other hand, embodies Schreiner's frustation with her station as a woman - barred from the upper echelons of society, and her inability to find a mate who is both her intellectual match and willing to accept her as an equal. "I want to love", she whispers to the grave of Waldo's father, "I want something great and pure to lift me to itself."

There are many other themes that flesh out the subtext of this extraordinary book - the tragedy of solitude, that ultimately, all humans are alone in the cosmos. "Dear eyes", the dying Lyndall whispers to her mirror, "they will never part us."

Readers who expect a narrative will be dissapointed. What narrative there is serves only to undersore the book's many themes. Often, the flow of the story is out of sequence, or devoid of context, and deliberately so. Roughly, the book is divided into three sections - the first introduces us to the characters as children, and reveals their innermost thoughts. The second, and shortest section is entitled "Times and Seasons".
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Christian Engler on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
When The Story of an African Farm was published in 1883, the title gave no indication to readers what the complex scope of the novel was really about.
Written by South African governess, Olive Schreiner, the book's crux ran along the controversal: the oppression of women, feminism, the existance of God, anti-imperialism, the bizarre transformation of one the novel's characters (not Lyndall) into a transvestite. It goes on and on. The novel was written when the belief of agnosticism was in the early stages of being in 'vogue.' Also interesting, Darwin's Origin of the Species had been published for some time, and the theory had rooted itself in many areas of society.
This was not the traditional Victorian novel that was written in the old English 'bonne bouche' manner on par with Jane Eyre or Emma. The prose of the novel has a broken up fluidity to it; it is not grandiloquent; it is in fact, quite brutal, edgy. As Elaine Showalter writes in the excellent introduction to the Bantam Classic edition, "Readers expecting the structured plot of a typical three-volume Victorian novel were startled by the oddity of African Farm, with its poetic, allegorical, and distinct passages, and its defiance of narrative and sexual conventions." With that clearly explained, it is not a surprise that it shocked old, priggish Englanders with their stiff upper lips and staunch, conservative manners, nor is it shocking that the Church of England called the novel "blasphemous."
African Farm details the lives of three key characters: Waldo, Em and Lyndall. The latter character is the one who seems to bring up the key issues that made the novel controversal. Lyndall is always described as 'little,' 'delicate,' 'like a doll,' 'a flower.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kate Jylkka on December 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Although I had to read this book for a college class, I would read it again in a second, I feel that I can only gain more and more from this book through rereadings. Its plot is at times disjointed to the style of the author and the message she is attempting to convey, so for those who are looking for a strongly Dickensian or "feel good" read, this is most likely not the book for you right now. But for me, from an analytical and heartfelt standpoint, the subtlety of the book and its beauty and its truth made me tear up a little bit. I'm currently writing a paper on Waldo and his artistic and personal growth throughout the novel, so maybe I'm a little biased, but although Lyndall is an incredibly interesting and advanced character, I think Waldo is often glossed over as merely suffering from a religious crisis of faith, and, being a man, not deserving of attention in this novel of the "New Woman". But Waldo ultimately reaches a place of amazing peace and understanding, and the lives of Waldo and Lyndall intertwined together is truly beautiful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shawn A. Palmer on October 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for my British Lit class in college. I had never read anything by Schreiner, and was drawn into the story right away. I found myself unable to put the book down and finished it in just a couple nights. This book is an excellent one for critical analysis, containing themes of religion, relationships, and love, from a very feminist perspective. Symbolism abounds in this almost poetical story. I definitely recommend this book and will certainly read more from Schreiner in the future!
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