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

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  17 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
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Heather
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
Christie
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
Izzy
this is my first time reading a memoir and i would like to read more from other authors. what can i say about this book is, i don't feel the characters, like all of them? such a pity because i thought i was going to love this book bc i always have a thing for books about children growing up in abusive household, emotionally or/and physically.

she (the author) had my attention when she said she was raped by her father when she was six. she didn't say much about the event, and somehow i am glad. bu
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Maroola Tree
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.
Crystal
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
Rebecca
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
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.
Cindy
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
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
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
Alison
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.
Laura
there is nothing i love more than a memoir about a dysfunctional childhood set in an exotic location. i loved this book.
Jessie
There were some powerful passages but overall the story didn't grab me.
Anna Lee
This is a vivid and haunting memoir of an expat family in colonial Africa.
Marsha
Memories of Africa and incest. Sad. -- Ok
Cathy
Personal therapy for horrific family life
Katherine
Very disappointing....
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