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Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood
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Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  128 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Carolyn Slaughter recalls her childhood in Africa and how the land itself released her from a rage that threatened to destroy her.

For Carolyn Slaughter, who grew up in Botswana in the 1950s, it was the Kalahari Desert that made life bearable. Her father was a cruel and violent district commissioner during the last days of Br
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Mar 06, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies, africa
I enjoyed this story about growing up in Africa. I admit that I love Africa and stories of people who came of age there and have read many; this one is more personal than most because the focus is on the personal relationships and inner family turmoil of the author vs. the outer elements, animals, culture, etc. All the same both are present throughout the book and I found it engaging, and an easy read that held my interest. The story of a very tough childhood is told in a way that does not seem ...more
Sarah Kester
Feb 28, 2016 Sarah Kester rated it really liked it
Though "Before The Knife" is set in the Kalahari Desert, it is less a story about Africa and more about the devastating effects of childhood abuse.

Carolyn Slaughter recalls her childhood in Botswana in such vivid detail that you are transported to her time there. Time spent doing whatever she could to avoid confronting her dark secret until it grew inside of her and manifested itself in a hatred of everyone around her, but especially her abuser.

Though it is less a story about Africa, its po
Hazel McHaffie
May 06, 2016 Hazel McHaffie rated it it was amazing
If you have the courage to brave the dark without a candle, this slim volume is well worth the effort. At once disturbing and courageous, it combines an eloquent description of life under colonial rule, the landscapes and mores of Africa and India, and the inner conflicts of a child traumatised by a violent sexually predatory father and a cold self-centred mother. Gripping and evocative it will hold your attention effortlessly.
Feb 02, 2011 Christie rated it liked it
Before I talk about the book, let me say a few words about the author. I discovered Carolyn Slaughter 20 odd years ago, purely by accident. I came across her novel, The Banquet in a book store and its tag line “a taut and powerful story of obsessive love” caught my attention. Well of course it did. At the time I was madly (and a little obsessively) in love myself. I devoured the book and then went looking for more. In a second hand store I came across her novel Relations (which is also known as ...more
Steph (loves water)
Jul 13, 2016 Steph (loves water) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: memoir, 2016
Dark. Beautifully moving prose about the author's coming of age in Africa. I long to see the Africa that she painted for me. A huge talent, especially after, or because of, the trauma and abuse she received at the hands of her parents. I plan to read more of this author.
Maroola Tree
Jan 22, 2015 Maroola Tree rated it it was amazing
This book was riveting. I loved all the details of the author's African (and colonial) experience in Botswana and South Africa. Fascinating insight into the family and social history of the times as well.
May 08, 2015 Michelle rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographical, abuse
The jumps forward and back in time made it hard to follow the story and the style of writing made the whole book feel disjointed and slightly removed from itself. While I didn't really enjoy the style it did fit the overall feel of the book and was probably what the author intended.
Sep 01, 2012 Crystal rated it it was ok
I think I might have enjoyed this more if it was what I'd expected. The blurbs on the back portray it as a beautiful memoirs of the author's childhood in Africa. Instead it's much darker, more about how her childhood was twisted by being raped by her father at 6 (Not really a spoiler since it's in the prologue), her mother not paying attention to her, and how she didn't fit in with the other kids. The African landscape and people are there, but only as a hazy background rather than at the front ...more
Aug 26, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
A touching, sad, beautifully written narrative. In the prologue she quickly refers to the sexual abuse she suffered and it doesn't become the focus on the novel, and explains her anger and self loathing without becoming a ploy for pity. The novel becomes about her childhood, all encompassing, and is an engrossing read.
Christine Greeley
Sep 24, 2010 Christine Greeley rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite memoirs! And it proves the use of well-written jacket summaries: I was performing inventory at the library where I worked and happened to come across this book. I read the summary and I just HAD to find out what the tragedy was that changed this woman's life. Very absorbing read.
Mar 05, 2011 Cindy rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I expected a beautiful memoir but what I got was ugly and raw. The author was raped by her father from the age of six. She doesn't give a graphic account of this but rather shows us how she struggled through a dismal, heartbreaking childhood. Another story I will not pass along.
Karen Lancaster
Oct 02, 2013 Karen Lancaster rated it really liked it
I read this book with a compulsive sense of dread, loving every moment of her poetic style of writing but terrified of the hidden truth of the story. Beautifully written memoir of a painful childhood which stirs uneasy feelings within.
Sylvia Ford
Aug 19, 2011 Sylvia Ford rated it really liked it
amazingly frank biography of her life as a child in Africa (the daughter of a colonial officer)
giving an insight into the black/white conflicts and into her own traumatic life
Jan 09, 2008 Alison rated it liked it
Shelves: worth-reading
This is not so much an African childhood story as a story of child abuse and is very chilling. However, it is worth reading, I think.
Jun 25, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
there is nothing i love more than a memoir about a dysfunctional childhood set in an exotic location. i loved this book.
Oct 02, 2013 Jessie rated it it was ok
There were some powerful passages but overall the story didn't grab me.
Anna Lee
Nov 10, 2007 Anna Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a vivid and haunting memoir of an expat family in colonial Africa.
Nov 20, 2010 Marsha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Memories of Africa and incest. Sad. -- Ok
Mar 27, 2009 Cathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Personal therapy for horrific family life
Feb 04, 2011 Katherine rated it it was ok
Very disappointing....
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