The Maggie and Me author’s accomplished first novel connects twin tales of tragedy and violence in South Africa
In Damian Barr’s polished and harrowing debut novel, two inextricably tangled South African tragedies unfold a century apart.
At the height of the second Boer war, in 1901, Sarah van der Watt is sent with her only child, six-year-old Fred, to a British concentration camp. Her husband has already left to fight for the Orange Free State, and before she and Fred are herded into a boxcar, she’s forced to watch soldiers slaughter their livestock and torch their home. The “Khakis” shovel innards down the well and send Sarah’s beloved collection of Dickens novels up in smoke: “stories taking wing”.