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You Will Be Safe Here

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  738 ratings  ·  186 reviews
“There is pain on these pages and poetry too. I left this book bruised yet somehow better for it.” – Tayari Jones.

“Brutal, haunting, redemptive and...beautiful.” – Jojo Moyes.

This extraordinary debut set in South Africa reveals legacies of abuse and redemption exploring the extraordinary strength of the human spirit - from the Boer War in 1901 to brutal camps for teenage
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  738 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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Eric Anderson
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s especially exciting as a reader when I start a novel and immediately feel engrossed by the story. This is a difficult thing to accomplish because it’s not just the content that needs to grip me but the style and tone of the narrative have to confidently guide me into the fictional world being presented. But I did feel wholly inside the story of “You Will Be Safe Here” by Damian Barr starting with the prologue where a teenage boy named Willem is forcibly taken by his parents to a sinister ...more
Roman Clodia
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting and important story that dramatises parts of South Africa's troubled history through multiple generations of a Boer/Afrikaaner family. The first part is the strongest for me as a wife whose husband is fighting the British in the Second Boer War is placed in a British concentration camp with her young son.

Anyone who doesn't know about this particularly dark episode in Britain's brutal colonialist regime may well be shocked as well as enlightened. It's especially interesting to
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You Will Be Safe Here is a hard-hitting gut-punch of a novel telling the complex story of the Boer War, subsequent life in South Africa and the part the British government played in setting up concentration camps and perpetuating racism. The time it covers is about one-hundred years which could be tricky as it's a large span of time, but Barr manages to balance it beautifully. We would like to think that times have changed and this could no longer happen but is that really the case or are we ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 perhaps...
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I always enjoy reading books about my own country’s history. You Will Be Save Here tells two stories set in different timelines – 1901 and current. The second Boer War narrative felt very familiar, maybe because I’ve read quite a few books about this event. If you are interested in reading a book about the British scorched earth policy and concentration camps, I highly recommend Fees Van Die Ongenooides and The Lost History of Stars.

I found the second storyline, especially Willem’s POV much more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, it's been two days since I finished this book, and I still don't know how I am going to do it justice.

The story spans over 100 years in South Africa, from the second Boer War to post apartheid 2015. The main protagonists are an Afrikaans Boer wife and mother, who is taken to a concentration camp set up by the British (yes! that happened!) and a reserved, bookish teenage boy who is forced into a military style camp (dare we say conversion camp?!) by his misguided mother and brutish step
Andy Weston
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very powerful and incisive novel linking South Africa’s past and present which at times is harrowing, and yet ultimately a rewarding read.
A large section at the start of the novel is set in 1901 during the second Boer War with a diary kept by a young Afrikaans woman. It’s an authentic re-creation of a grim period of history that is rarely taught in schools, or even discussed these days.
The remainder of the novel skips to the present day, where another mother makes a decision to send
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having finished this book, I have struggled to rate and review it, as I found it a somewhat uneven read. It is set in three different periods – 1901, 1976 and 2010. The characters include a Boer farmer’s wife, Sarah, and her young son, who are captured by the British and find themselves in a concentration camp, and later descendents of hers, coping with a changing South Africa.

The author tells the history of a country, through these characters, and the first part of the novel, which involves
This is one of those beautiful books that you never want to end, but at the same time just can't stop reading. Stretching from 1901 to 2015 many of the characters are connected but not always in ways I expected. The story begins during the second Boer War with a young mother who is confined to a camp by the English. This is a time in history that I knew little about about so this novel has added greatly to my understanding of South African history, the horrors of war and the roots of apartheid. ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Damian Barr deserves praise for this novel that blends dual narratives into a coherent whole that is historical, contemporary, topical, timeless, moving, suspenseful, informative and just pretend I have thrown a few more adjectives at you. Let us just take the adjective topical and break it down to sub-topics like concentration camps, child abuse, white supremacy, LBGTQ hate--they are all included here. Barr's prose is is utilized more in character development than poetic description and has ...more
Adele Shea
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow!! I weren't expecting to be gripped by this book but I was.
Thank you Damien Barr for bringing awareness of the atrocities of the Boer war and also the recent history of Concentration Camps that still exist in the world today.
Jackie Law
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like many countries colonised by Europeans over the centuries, South Africa has a distressing history of entitlement leading to brutality. A population of disparate groups evolves, with each believing the land is rightfully theirs. War and political change lead to festering resentments passed down through generations. Inculcated prejudices can result in the dehumanisation of those considered other for a variety of reasons.

You Will Be Safe Here explores a number of such prejudices. It opens with
The Nerd Daily
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Sowmya Gopi

Ever read a book that grips you for story so much that even after you turn the last page, the story keeps evolving further in your head? Well, that’s what this book does, it leaves your mind reeling. The title of the book is “You Will Be Safe Here”, words set in between bared wires on the cover and it’s a simple message that will lead you to an intense, horrendous, and captivating tale and will make you wonder is anyone really safe?

Anna Baillie-Karas
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this! I expected it to be bleak but it has some wonderful, uplifting, strong women characters and I learnt much about South Africa, the Boer War and its aftermath. Written from interesting perspectives - a mother in a concentration camp, a teenage boy & a single mother. There’s an undercurrent of violence & the tension builds. A great ear for dialogue and characters written with care & compassion. Recommended.
Krutika Puranik
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You will be safe here.
Thank you for this copy @bloomsburyindia and @mrdamianbarr.
"In the water, in the dark. It doesn’t matter whose fingers find whose toes. Nobody can see. The stars are saying nothing." - Damian Barr.
I had often heard the term 'Boer War' but I never tried to educate myself about it. I'll forever be thankful for this book in teaching me so many important things related to that horrible time of 1901 when humanity was dead. When the British waged war over South African
I had no idea that concentration camps existed during the Boer Wars in South Africa, I had no idea that so many people had been mistreated and ruined at that time, people who were just living their lives and struggling in a harsh environment. In the first section of the book we meet Sarah, struggling to cope as she is interred with her young son into a concentration camp run by the British, her husband is off fighting and their farm has been razed to the ground as part of the scorched earth ...more
Ronan O'Shea
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent novel, I found You Will Be Safe here both highly informative and an engaging read. Beginning with the diary entry of a Boer woman sent to a British concentration camp during the Second Boer War, the prose is laced with deft, subtle insights as to the period and peppered with moments of searing candour which reveal the horrors of the period.

Moving through various periods of 20th-century and early 21st-century South Africa, the book reads like a thriller, with a compelling storyline
John Hatley
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This amazing book is everything its cover says it is — powerful, astonishing, devastating, beautiful — descriptions by people far more qualified than I to evaluate it, and much, much more. It is one of the best books I have read this year, or any other year. It is a fictional story based on a history virtually unknown to most of us. I find it impossible to write more without including “spoilers”.
Natasha Ellis
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought I wouldn’t like this, I don’t know much about South African history and it was a little slow at first but I slowly got drawn in and really got engrossed in the story.
I kept wondering whilst reading as to how these stories link up. I thought I had missed something. They do link up.
It was a harsh, interesting read and I would highly recommend.
Beas Chattaraj
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.8 stars!
You may have read about the World Wars, the Third Reich and holocaust, the Nazi death camps. There are so many books covering those topics - fiction or nonfiction. I wasn't aware of the Boer Wars. Sure, I read about South Africa's race segregation, apartheid and Mandela's struggle for equal status for the black and white people of the country but I had no idea that there were concentration camps constructed by the British in South Africa for the refugees. Although those weren't death
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author is a British columnist, playwright and writer. He has a NZ connection, last year receiving a University of Otago Scottish Writer's fellowship based at the Pah Homestead in Auckland. I wonder if this is where he put the finishing touches to this outstanding novel. He says on his website he is a story teller, and oh my goodness, he certainly knows how to tell a story, weaving fact into fiction, creating characters and a story that will stay with you long after reading.

The setting for
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd heard a lot of good things about You Will Be Safe Here and was worried that I might be disappointed when I finally got to read it. How wrong I was! Harrowing in what it depicts but beautiful in the way it does so, this exceeded my expectation. A morally complex window into silenced histories (I knew only a little about the Boer Wars and nothing about the SA Conversion Camps), in which Barr avoids the temptation to tie up loose ends for the sake of comforting the reader. Great book, ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I am deeply disturbed by the repetition of history, never seeming to learn from it, the constant crushing of human spirit and the continuous training of new generations to keep on these ways of hating and fearing the "other".
My "favourite" parts were in the beginning with Sarah van der Watt and her daily writing in her diary when held in the Bloemfontein Concentration Camp (1901), although Willem's present day story was just as gripping and saddening.

Chitra Ahanthem
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
was left reeling under the impact of this book to be able to put up a review in short notice. This book is not just about a story or its characters but how South Africa as a nation and its people have gone through so many trials and tribulations than we can ever imagine and how the politics of polarization are breaking apart societies and ultimately, the idea of a nation.
Following the lives of two families and with strong female portrayals at the center of different narratives, this book takes
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a big story made completely accessible through deeply realized portrayals of the individuals involved in major historical moments... It's heartbreaking at times, yes, but Barr manages to include moments of such kindness. You worry for these characters as you keep moving to see what comes of them. Though it is based in one moment, I found it surprisingly relevant to contemporary discussions of immigration/migration, how we treat young people, and how the government treats the ...more
June Louise
You know when you have trudged through some books, and then, among the meh-ness, there emerges a gem. Well, this book is such a gem. Indeed, it is stellar (if may link an adjective to a couple of scenes in the book).

I have just finished reading 'You Will Be Safe Here' (taking slightly longer than usual because of uni work and teaching demands) and wow! I'm in a daze. All I will say is that on p.307 of the hardback edition, my jaw dropped and I actually exclaimed out loud "No way!" much to the
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A first novel by Damian Barr, whose memoir Maggie and Me I enjoyed so much that, with a satisfied sigh as I finished it, I slipped my iPad into the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me on an airplane and left it there. So, I was eager to read his novel, but thought it was imperative to read a hard copy.

It's set in South Africa, and does something fancy, starting off with a modern day teen as he's dropped off at an ominous camp by his mother and stepfather. Then it switches to telling
Sonali Dabade
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
I. Can't. Feel. My. Heart.

I need some time to regroup, gather my exploding emotions into a safe basket, and then and only then, will I be able to form a coherent opinion and write an understandable review of this amazing book!

Until then, I'm going to go cry into my pillow at night and stare off into the distance during the day till I can make sense of myself!
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a Book Club read that I was reluctant to read. I knew very little about the 1st and 2nd Boer wars and as I read the book it encouraged me to read more about a time I had no knowledge of. The book was well written and I was quickly drawn into the story. Damian Barr's book, You Will Be Safe Here tells the story of past times and also how events infulence the future.
Susan Hampson
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This books delivers two very powerful stories both which are set in South Africa with over a century separating them. The cover is simple with the words that should reassure, set in between barbed wire, ‘You will be safe here’ but now that I have read this book it makes me so cold and ashamed.
I didn’t realise when I began this book that the story set in 2010 had been a true story so what had been a horrendous, intense and a captivating story now became a nightmare that filled me with so much
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'Maggie & Me' is my memoir and 'You Will Be Safe Here' is my first novel. You can follow me on twitter @damian_barr and insta @mrdamianbarr. I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy:

'You Will Be Safe Here' is set in South Africa in 1901 and now. It explores legacies of abuse, redemption and the strength of the human spirit - there is always, light even in our very
“Above all this the stars shine. Willem pauses for a moment and feels the world turn as he struggles to pick out the Southern Cross among the interstellar static, He's never seen a sky so big or so bright. It's dizzying and he spins slowly to take it all in...” 0 likes
“In the water, in the dark. It doesn’t matter whose fingers find whose toes. Nobody can see. The stars are saying nothing.” 0 likes
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