Child of the River by Irma Joubert is the first book that I believe that I have read by this author but it certainly will not be the last. This book begins with the leading character, Persomi Pieterse, coming of age in the 1930's in South Africa. She is the 4th child growing up in a poor white sharecropper family, a bywoner, on a portion of the huge Fourie farm. She has grown up playing with the owners children but knows that her place is to always be subject to the children of the owner. Irene one of the owner's children makes sure that Persomi knows her place. Persomi and her older brother Gerbrand belong to their mother and Piet and Sissie belong to their pa. Hannapat and Baby belong to both of them. Persomi wonders why she doesn't look like anyone else in the family. She is tall and thin and has dark hair. Persomi is smart in school and she can run like the wind. That running is sometimes what saves her from the cruel hand of her drunken lazy father. Persomi knows that this is her last year of school. Her mama has already told her that she will find a job next year and Gerbrand even though he is also smart and athletic has already quit school to work in the mines. Persomi has been told by the welfare woman that she could get a scholarship for her so that she can go to school and Persomi has high hopes. The welfare woman was on their case because she found out that Sissie was pregnant and their father had raped her. The welfare woman had asked Persomi to testify against her father. Persomi is afraid but she agrees to tell the truth though her ma had said that pa would kill them all. Persomi testifies and she not only told on her pa but also told why Sissie and her mother had lied and were too afraid to tell the truth. Pa is sent to jail and Persomi goes to school. This is the beginning of Persomi becoming educated and becoming an important lawyer during the coming apartheid and World War II years.
I loved this book. Though it is a novel it is told with the historic facts in place. It tells of the many problems of the poor both white and the various colors of the human race in South Africa. It tells of the rich and their ways of controlling the laws to their benefit and how it affects the poor. It tells of how race relations are manipulated by those in power to keep the poor infighting among themselves and allowing the rich to stay rich by not fighting. It tells how during the war the rich did not fight but rather controlled how the war was fought by the poor of their country. "The poor are mere cannon fodder" during the war.
I received this book from Booksneeze for this review.