BOOK REVIEW: Journal of a Boer girl uncovers ghostly secrets
Clare Houston’s debut novel peels back the onion skin of our complicated past
The story of life in the British concentration camps where Boers were held isn’t often told in contemporary local fiction. Clare Houston’s debut novel, An Unquiet Place, casts a fictional light on this episode of our history. Engagingly told, the narrative drew me in swiftly. In the present day, 30-something Hannah Harrison is leaving her life in Cape Town, and her lover of a decade, an aspiring politician, to manage a bookshop in a small town in the Eastern Free State called Leliehoek.
The two men who own the bookshop are rushing off to try life in Australia and leave as soon as Hannah arrives, barely meeting her. This seemed a tiny bit implausible — and there are other too convenient plot devices in this novel — but sometimes you have to suspend a slight, raised eyebrow. On her first weekend in her new home, which adjoins the bookshop, Hannah discovers the journal of a Boer girl, Rachel Badenhorst. The journal begins at the start of the war in 1899. Hannah is swiftly drawn i...