Adult/High School–Six-year-old Lizzy is present when her doctor father secretly delivers the baby of her nurse, Salamina, in a white suburb of South Africa in 1963. It becomes Lizzy's special responsibility to keep the infant hidden from the police as well as from the Afrikaner neighbors. As the irrepressible child grows, it becomes more and more difficult to keep Moliseng hidden, and she is sent to the slums of Soweto to live with her grandmother. At the age of 14, she is killed by police as she leads other children in a final defiant and heartrending gesture, proclaiming her freedom. The narrative is told from the point of view of Lizzy, who grapples with the conflicting social, political, and religious values of the times and with her mother's depression. She finds comfort, if not answers, in the distracted attention of her father, the unconditional love of her nurse, and her own Syringa tree with its sweet-smelling blossoms. Readers will be carried away by lyrical descriptions of the sensual beauty of the veld and will experience the heartache of the characters as their lives are torn apart by the violence of the period. The story is as compelling and enlightening as Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country (S & S, 1977), and the writing is evocative of that classic work.–Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
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*Starred Review* In the tradition of such great southern African writers as Nadine Gordimer and Doris Lessing, this gripping first novel tells the apartheid story through the eyes of a white child who loses her innocence as she confronts the anguish of a black family torn apart by law, separated from each other and from her. Gien was born and raised in Johannesburg, and her acclaimed autobiographical Broadway play with the same title won the 2001 Obie Award. Now her spare, beautiful prose fills in the history and politics at the height of apartheid. But the focus is on the child Elizabeth and her liberal home. Her part-Jewish dad is a surgeon at the black Baragwanath Hospital. Her parents allow her beloved nanny, Salamena, to give birth to a baby girl, Moliseng, born illegally in the white suburb and hidden for years from brutal police raids that would banish the child. When finally Moliseng must leave for the seething Soweto black township, Elizabeth is bereft at the loss of her sister-friend. And what of Moliseng and her broken mother? The small, daily details reveal the savage cruelty of displacement and of servants in the backyard, even with a kind, white "madam." Beyond message, the story builds to the unforgettable climax of the 1976 Soweto uprising, led by children, who are massacred. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
a wonderful stroll down memory lane for ex-South Africans.
moving and upsetting at the same time
It's been awhile since a book has moved me to tears as did this beautiful story. Would some really good director please make it into a movie?Published 3 months ago by Georgia Hillard
This is an amazingly thought provoking story. The language is rich and vivid. Even though the setting is in South Africa, the prejudices, attitudes, and heroics are universal.Published 12 months ago by Theresa Duffy-Nour
I first picked up this book at the library when I was sixteen years old. I can't remember any more what drew me to it, but I am glad it happened. Read morePublished on July 25, 2013 by GIyen
I will be able to see the play this novel was taken from this weekend. I know the actress and she is terrific. I encourage those who read the book to see the play.Published on June 11, 2012 by amiga Betty
This novel seems almost autobiographical about a young girl's struggle with life in 1963 South Aftica. Read morePublished on November 26, 2010 by Rose
I started reading this book because my book club selected it. I read all of Part 1 and all of Part 2 and it was so boring. Read morePublished on February 2, 2010 by B. Maxwell
A must read. I wept, laughed and found myself in the pages of this remarkable novel.Published on February 16, 2009 by Martha E. Kruger