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The Story of an African Farm

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  1,071 ratings  ·  74 reviews
The Story of an African Farm (1883) marks an early appearance in fiction of Victorian society's emerging New Woman. The novel follows the spiritual quests of Lyndall and Waldo, who each struggle against social constraints in their search for happiness and truth: Lyndall, against society's expectations of women, and Waldo against stifling class conventions. Written from the ...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published January 27th 2003 by Broadview Press (first published 1883)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,906)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
What led me to this novel was the Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, said to be the only autobiographical work about the First World War written by a woman. If my recollection is right, this novel was a hot topic of discussion between Vera Brittain and her fiance during the few last moments of peace they enjoyed before he, Vera's brother and several of their male friends went to the Front and perished one-by-one in the battlefields of Europe.

But why would these Englishmen be discussing a novel
...more
Ruth
I happened upon this book at a very painful time in my life, and I think my state of mind had a lot to do with how powerfully I was affected by this book. Every day I was fighting off the fear that physically, mentally, I was going down. And getting quite old on top of that. So it was precisely the philosophy of the book that impacted me most powerfully. Yes, some people are just cruel for no reason. And maybe, no matter how hard you try to believe in God, you can't make it. The character who im ...more
Andreea
Spooky (I kept getting really scared that the dog was going to get killed, but he survives to the end), strange and kinda boring after the description promises you shocking portrayals of premarital sex and cross-dressing. Also a lot of racial slurs and offhand racist comments from characters and othering portrayals of people of colour all of which will probably make you uncomfortable. I think, overall, what's most surprising is that this is a Victorian novel with very little plot. Not only is it ...more
Rita
An amazing book. One of a kind. Author born in 1855. Life on severely isolated South African farms. Unbelievable isolation.

Written when author very young, very painful to read as author feels so keenly the disappointments and disillusions of life and the cruelties people inflict on each other.

Strangely, in the context of the long write-up of her life in Wikipedia, she seems to have foreseen some of her own life's later tragedies [baby dying just after birth for one].
Sarazahrani
In love with it. I am a fan of any story where a desert is a setting. A warm yet solitary place to be. At any attempt to figure out the best way of coping with it, you just fail, fail, fail. Better back to the novel.
Such an in-depth resolution of a basic story! Waldo, as young as he is, is questioning the religion as complicated as it is. Here is the best quote i find: very thoughtful and true to its core:
Uncle Otto:
"How do you know that anything is true? Because you are told so. If we begin to
...more
Jared Murphy
Schreiner is probably not well known outside of South Africa. Heck I don't even know if she is/was well known there. However, this is a Victorian era work of fiction written by a South African about experiences in South Africa and reads unlike other books of the era. It carried me away when I read it for a Victorian lit class. It probably wouldn't carry a lot of people away but it was an opening into an area of the world and a cultural heritage that I previously knew little or nothing about. Rec ...more
Christy
A South African classic I read on the plane back to Seattle. Set on a nineteenth century farm in the arid semi-desert Karoo, this is a bildungsroman of three children: Waldo, the philosophical son of a German immigrant; Em, the step-daughter of the farm's widowed owner; and Lyndell, whose connection I couldn't establish, but who is beautiful, intelligent and doomed. Contains: a spiteful Irishman, ostriches, scenery, death, musings on religion, transcendentalism, and the woman question. I'm not s ...more
ifjuly
someone who really saw me in my writing, all of my hidden concerns nestled, recommended this to me out of the blue. she was spot on. this book, oh this book. millions of papers could be written about this book. in another life i would love to write a dissertation on it, frankly. there's a TON going on here, and it's all hot buzz worthy topics right now i confess--colonialism, gender, property issues...all wrapped in the far away language of childhood and growing up into awareness. fascinating, t ...more
Janille N G
This was a surprisingly moving and interesting read! I was almost immediately intrigued by the unique storyline and the very distinct setting, and all of the characters are so well described and articulated. Many of the scenes are disturbing, strange and unsettling (I am thinking of the chapter when Gregory acts as Lyndall's nurse), but these moments add to the intricacies and complexities of a plot that is unlike any that I have encountered in my extensive reading of Victorian literature. Lynda ...more
Dakota
This was a very difficult book to read, mainly because it didn't have a clear plot. However, despite my 3-star rating, I do think others should take the time to tackle this book at some point or another.

The Story of an African Farm takes readers through two different stories: a young boy who grows up questioning his extreme adherence to religion and trying to find a balance of spirituality, and a girl who abandons all religious scruples and instead dives into the world of secularism. Both learn
...more
Ann
Originally published in 1883, this is the story of Lyndall, a young girl growing up on a farm in South Africa. Lyndall sees the limited options available to her, and dares to want more. She leaves in order to obtain an education, but the education that was available to women at that time fails to satisfy her need for independence and self-determination. Her longing for autonomy, and her observation of loveless marriages make her detremined to avoid marriage. She ends up running away with a lover ...more
Krista
"The Story of an African Farm" is a novel narrating episodes from the lives of three children as they grow up on a farm in South Africa: through dreamy yet visceral prose, the reader learns of Waldo’s spiritual unrest, Lyndall’s fierce and far-reaching ambitions, and of the stolid Em, who is sweet but no fool. The narrative is evocative in its description of a different time and place and a unique culture.

But "The Story of an African Farm" is a mess. There is good material to excerpt as food for
...more
Eric Bruen
I love this book. Some of the reviews here say that it's a hard read and disjointed. I don't think this is a difficult read at all, in fact, it's quite a page-turner. The plot and characters and their perspectives feel surprisingly fresh. Sure, the language and style are a little dated but not distractingly so. I think it's a beautiful story and dealing with important themes for its time and themes that continue to resonate into our own time. Young characters searching for truth, dignity and com ...more
Donnell

So you want to get in the head of a future World War I soldier? Not only that, one who will die in the war so his voice was silenced sometime before November 11, 1918? Then this is the book for you.

I know of this book only because Roland Leighton urged it upon Vera Brittain, as she recorded in Testament of Youth.

Perhaps I am allowing the above to overly color my perception--Still, the book resonates, amazingly, with a sense it was written for people who's faith in anything and everything would
...more
Ashley
The only thing stopping me from giving this book five stars is that it didn't really have a plot. It's more of a portrait than a story, really, but it's a beautiful portrait, full of word treasure. Schreiner writes about feminism before it existed, and what it means to be human, and what it means to spend your life looking for something that doesn't exist.
Emily
The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner (reinvented as the 2004 film Bustin' Bonaparte, the movie that inspired whiners on Amazon to give it no stars because it's not about talking animals). My pen pal Peter recommended the pants off this book and I am deeply sorry that I didn't like Story of an African Farm as much as he does. As soon as he recommended it, I downloaded it off Librivox, and started listen-reading. It does have merit, but it also has rough patches and serious issues. The ...more
Caroline
An interesting story with appealing protagonists and a Dickensian villain. The authorial commentary is striking and insightful (my copy now contains 8 sticky notes marking particularly piercing lines!). At times you can feel the author's youth; some plot points are more romantic than they might have been had she returned to this with a more experienced pen — at one point I felt the work wasn't sure of what message it was trying to communicate except for a romantic, obscure sense of appropriatene ...more
Bette
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lauren
I really liked the majority of this book, although at times the philosophical tangents got a bit long for my taste. Still, I was surprised and intrigued by this book. It's a unique perspective--Victorian, but set in South Africa
and written by a South African white woman. There is a predictably large amount of upsetting racial stereotypes, but also a distinctly feminist main character who rails against the barriers society has set for her. It's very different from the majority of books written at
...more
Michele
This book is a re-read, but I didn't pay really close attention to it the first time around, and frankly, I don't think I actually finished it. So in that sense, it's a bit like reading a book for which you've already seen the movie - you've got a basic idea of what's going on in the story, but the details aren't there.

The 'novel' not only tells a story (or more accurately, stories) but also in several chapters, moves into philosophical and aesthetic discussions, something not surprising for a V
...more
Christian Engler
When The Story of an African Farm was published in 1883, the title gave no indication to readers what the complex scope of the novel was really about.
Written by South African governess, Olive Schreiner, the book's crux ran along the controversal: the oppression of women, feminism, the existance of God, anti-imperialism, the bizarre transformation of one the novel's characters (not Lyndall) into a transvestite. It goes on and on. The novel was written when the belief of agnosticism was in the ear
...more
Emilio
This is a peculiar book by any account, but in its time, peculiarly influential. It's a shame that today more people haven't heard of it.

Olive Schreiner was the first well-known South African writer, and this book literally marks the dawn of South African literature. Schreiner wrote it when she was 18, and it has the exploratory feel of a writer trying out different styles to see what she can do; they never entirely meld by the end of the book, but it nonetheless paints a portrait of growing up
...more
Andrew
I read this book because I went into a bookshop in Cape Town and asked for something very South African.
It's a pretty grim tale. If follows the lives, principally, of three children who live on a farm and follows their lives through pretty much to the end. It shows hard, thankless lives, with almost no joy in them. There are not many characters, but the nice ones seen to get a hard time and the nastiest one - it is hinted towards the end - eventually does rather well for himself. I'm really not
...more
Kimberly Rogers
The narrative in this book was not so artfully rendered--- most of the plot was delivered in big blocks of dialogue, etc. I wasn't very invested in the characters. But, that said, I still think it's an important book for those interested in Southern African literature (esp those interested in early colonial fiction, as I think this is one of the first-- I have no current proof for this comment, a quick search only mentions it as an early feminist novel, but I suspect it --written in 1875, pub in ...more
Kelsey
The story is set in South Africa, on a farm during the time of the British Empire. The story focuses on Em and Lyndall, who are cousins, and a boy named Waldo. Part One takes place when they are all children and Part Two tells about them as young adults. The book has a feminist thread (espoused by Lyndall) and an atheist thread (discovered by Waldo). It is basically a story of their lives. There is a lot of philosophy, many long conversations, and poetic descriptions of settings and events in th ...more
Matt
This book has some great writing in it, with an excellent story. It is also littered with numerous pages that could have been omitted. There are pages of religious groveling that almost feel out of place. As though the author is trying to take you through the transformation that the character goes through. I think it feels a bit out of place, and when it occurs can happen in between stories. Maybe it is a bit like classic Greek stories, where the conclusion of an even is followed by reflection, ...more
Kenneth
The Story of an African Farm I found to be a difficult read; an eclectic and somewhat disjointed series of parts given meaning only in the context of the novel's (clearly stated) atheistic, proto-feminist, philosophy. The action of the narrative itself is frequently interrupted for characters to espouse the virtues of these philosophies, frequently repeating and occasionally contradicting themselves.

That said, there is something of a relief in being able to access the levels of meaning in a work
...more
Betty
This is a classic of South Africa, but to this modern reader it was tedious. The narrative was not compelling and the philosophical passages seemed the primary motive and they were as subtle as a crutch. Best read for the descriptions of farming life of whites during the period.
Christine
I enjoyed the descriptions of the South African countryside and the characters, so easy to visualize as some parts of and some people in the country haven't changed much in the last 100 years or so.
Charlea Finley
It's slooowww. I don't know if it works as a novel. None of the characters actually resolve their problems. And through the lens of imperialism, this book is dense.
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500 Great Books B...: The Story of an African Farm - Olive Schreiner 1 1 Jul 14, 2014 10:14PM  
  • You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
  • Kringe in 'n bos
  • The Smell of Apples
  • Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
  • Agaat
  • The Mottled Lizard
  • Mafeking Road: and Other Stories
  • Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War
  • Imaginings of Sand
  • White Mischief
  • Shades
  • Ways of Dying
  • Tsotsi
  • My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
  • Burger's Daughter
  • Jock of the Bushveld
  • The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.
  • Ancestral Voices
60536
Olive Schreiner (24 March 1855 - December 11, 1920), was a South African author, pacifist and political activist. She is best known for her novel The Story of an African Farm, which has been acclaimed for the manner it tackled the issues of its day, ranging from agnosticism to the treatment of women.

From Wikipedia:
Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner (1855-1920) was named after her three older brother
...more
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“We have been so blinded by thinking and feeling that we have never seen the World.” 9 likes
“And so, it comes to pass in time, that the earth ceases for us to be a weltering chaos. We walk in the great hall of life, looking up and round reverentially. Nothing is despicable - all is meaningful; nothing is small - all is part of a whole, whose beginning and end we know not. The life that throbs in us is a pulsation from it; too mighty for our comprehension, no too small.
And so, it comes to pass at last, that whereas the sky was at first a small blue rag stretched out over us and so low that our hands might touch it, pressing down on us, it raises itself into an immeasurable blue arch over our heads, and we begin to live again.”
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