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Karoo Plainsong

2.5 (1934)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Karoo Plainsong.pdf | Language: ENGLISH

This vivid novel, set against a backdrop of apartheid, tells the story of Ada, an illegitimate, unschooled but brilliant pianist who grows up in service to a family of Irish immigrants. As apartheid tightens its grip, she is seduced into an illegal relationship and bears a mixed race child. Forced to flee from the only home she knows, she must carve a life for herself, her daughter and her music in the bleak township that squats on the edge of the Karoo. Torn between love for her surrogate family and outrage at apartheid's sins, she embarks on a dangerous double life as friend - and potential foe - of both black and white. A powerful tale of love, loss and redemption, this is a journey into the soul of a fractured nation. It illustrates two simultaneous but contrasting views of South Africa under apartheid - seen through the eyes of a remarkable black woman who holds on for the miracle. Fans of romance, fiction and history will enjoy this personal tale of woman's survival in a time of turmoil.

"Writing rich and moving, redolent of the author's passion for South Africa" -- Lucie Whitehouse Brought up in South Africa, Barbara is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who settled in the Karoo in the early 1900s. She graduated from Rhodes University during the height of apartheid and is now married with 2 children and has homes in London and Cape Town. Barbara has a deep love for music and is a keen follower of African politics and history.

2.4 (3149)
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Book details

  • PDF | 430 pages
  • Troubador Publishing Ltd (December 7, 2010)
  • English
  • 9
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Becky Staehlin on September 29, 2017

    I loved this book, and have already loaned it to friends, but when I began to read it I found it was the same book as The Housemaid's Daughter, which I had ordered at the same time. As I said, I loved it, but please don't buy them both.

  • By Luv2Read on January 29, 2011

    By far one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a while. It tells the story of an era in South African history so expressively, that one almost feels one is living it with the characters. I can't wait to read more from this author. For those who lived through it and with it like myself, it brings back such memories - both wonderful and awful. For those who did not experience it, one can feel the raw emotions of the time and place.

  • By J. Horton-Holm on November 30, 2014

    2nd time reading this story of apartheid Africa. Excellent writing , with great character development.

  • By Sheila Mary Taylor Belshaw on May 21, 2011

    A great deal of the appeal of this beautifully written debut novel lies in the wholly convincing voice of the young black narrator, Ada. Born in 1930 - fatherless, unschooled, but a brilliant pianist - she grows up in service to Mr. and Mrs. Harrington and their son and daughter - a family of Irish immigrants in the remote town of Cradock on the edge of the Karoo, itself an intrinsic and mesmeric element of the story, with its starkness, its beauty and the unpredictability of the Great Fish River beautifully evoked through this South African-born author's lyrical prose.Barred from attending the white school where Cathleen Harrington teaches music Ada nevertheless gleans an unusually well-rounded education from her liberal thinking "Madam" and her son "Master Phil" with whom she plays from early childhood and who she idolises. Both treat Ada as one of the family, though she is no more than tolerated by Cathleen's husband, "Master Edward" and their daughter "Miss Siobahn". Madam, disappointed by Siobahn's total disinterest in the piano, directs her passion for music towards Ada, whose latent talent is soon rewardingly revealed. Barbara Mutch, herself an accomplished musician, gives us a totally believable picture of the development of a highly talented pianist. There is a good deal of emphasis on Ada's favourite piece of music, Chopin's "The Raindrop", that resonates throughout the novel and, in an unstated way, links with one of the most dramatic episodes which features the flooding of the Great Fish River.After her mother Miriam's early death, Ada automatically assumes the housekeeping duties at Cradock House. She spends more and more time playing the piano, giving great pleasure to her listeners - even to the dour Master Edward, and apart from sleeping alone in the wooden "kaia" in the back garden she is otherwise totally integrated into the Harrington family. Thus shielded from the realities of the outside world it is little wonder that a close bond is forged between the girl and her madam, and that only gradually does Ada realise that there is a difference in the way black people and those with white skins are perceived.Ada is privileged to be part of a family whose human values resist the influences of the growing racial prejudices of the 30s and 40s, right through to the 80s. Although the novel is far from being weighed down by the political changes taking place in South Africa because of Apartheid, with the early uprisings against racial oppression only delicately sketched in, Ada is nevertheless drawn into the conflict which does have an important bearing on her fortunes and misfortunes.Coerced into an illegal relationship that results in the birth of a child with a far lighter skin than her own, she is forced to flee from the family she loves, seeking refuge on the other side of the river, eking out a living by taking in washing which she dries on the bushes lining the great river - until one memorable day she hears that in a nearby township school there is an old piano that nobody plays.This transforms her life. As a much loved music teacher Ada escapes the poverty to which she would otherwise have been condemned, and carves for herself and her wayward mixed-race daughter a new life; though the old one, and her devotion to Madam, are never far from her thoughts, providing a page-turning situation that makes this book impossible to put down.


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