Buried Treasure

Jane Rogers on 'The Story of an African Farm' by Olive Schreiner
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The Independent Culture

The Story of an African Farm (1883) is a strange and haunting novel full of characters seeking answers to big questions. Its melodramatic plot sits oddly with the characters' passionate philosophical, political and religious questionings; yet the book works, largely because of the setting. The remote farm, the vast sky, the wide, red Karoo, are described with luminous intensity. Its heroine Lyndall, independent and beautiful, with a splinter of ice in her heart, is determined to find freedom and equality as a woman. I first read the book in 1976, after travel in Southern Africa. I had devoured Doris Lessing's African fiction, and it was a joy to discover, in Schreiner, a writer as important for Lessing as Lessing was for me.

The Story of an African Farm (1883) is a strange and haunting novel full of characters seeking answers to big questions. Its melodramatic plot sits oddly with the characters' passionate philosophical, political and religious questionings; yet the book works, largely because of the setting. The remote farm, the vast sky, the wide, red Karoo, are described with luminous intensity. Its heroine Lyndall, independent and beautiful, with a splinter of ice in her heart, is determined to find freedom and equality as a woman. I first read the book in 1976, after travel in Southern Africa. I had devoured Doris Lessing's African fiction, and it was a joy to discover, in Schreiner, a writer as important for Lessing as Lessing was for me.

Jane Rogers's new novel is 'The Voyage Home' (Little, Brown)

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