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The Afrikaner

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  42 ratings  ·  33 reviews
When a car-jacking in Johannesburg leads to the death of her colleague and lover, Zoe du Plessis, a palaeontologist of Afrikaner origin, is suddenly confronted with her family’s secret, wrapped in an old Xhosa’s curse. As she heads for the Kalahari Desert in search of early human fossils, Zoe embarks on an inner journey into the sense of guilt haunting her people. Meaningf ...more
Paperback, Kindle & Audiobook, Essential Prose, 285 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by Guernica Editions
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Zoe du Plessis, paleontologist, Afrikaner who can trace her family history 300 years in South Africa, bereaved woman who has lost her lover and colleague to a car hijacking, is a woman who embodies the struggle of South Africa in 1996. Apartheid has ended and black government rules. Where do the former classes in the highly stratified society fit in the future, a very different future for everyone in terms of power, control and expectations?

The Afrikaner is a beautifully written novel that celeb
Kat Dietrich
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019

The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino is a tale of love, loss, and racial tension in South Africa.

First, let me thank the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Synopsis:     (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions)

Zoe du Plessis, a paleontologist, heads to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa to finish the work her colleague and lover could not.  He was killed in a car hi-jacking in Johannesburg.

Zoe is a white wom
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a superb novel, immense in its range and subject. Brave in its use of the science of palaeontology to be a simile for the more recent political struggle in South Africa, its people and tribes that live in that culture and inhabit the land.
Zoe Du Plessis is the product of the white heritage in South Africa able to trace her ancestry back over 300 years. But the political reality now has a new regime in power, post apartheid it is a time where many of her Afrikaner people are re-evaluating
The Apartheid era is over, South Africa is struggling with its new world of equality. Zoe is a young paleoanthropologist and has to grapple with the car-jacking murder of her lover, dealing with guilt as a privileged white in a land of inequality, assessing her own prejudices, wondering about new prejudices she is seeing and leading a dig in the middle of the Kalahari for a year or so. She also reads a diary of her Aunt with a bag of family secrets, the admission of her brother that is he is in ...more
Jeannette Nikolova
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

(Around the World: South Africa)

A lovely novel that I really don't regret requesting on NetGalley.

The Afrikaner is a perfect example for what I need for my Reading around the world challenge. It wasn't just a story, but also a lesson.

I had a brief idea about the apartheid and the racial tensions in South Africa, but little more beyond that. The Afrikaner allowed me to get a larger glimpse into the struggle between the native population (from all sorts
Giannalberto Bendazzi
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Arianna Dagnino’s The Afrikaner is a multi-faceted book. First and foremost, it is a compelling narrative about the life and the psychology of a strong, intelligent, introspecting woman in agony (her fiancé was shot dead), and the diverse people she deals with.
At the same time, it is a realistic report on the current way of life of some of our fellow terrestrials, who are heading to the future with us, but not first class: Xhosa, Bantu, Ovambos, Afrikaners of old Dutch lineage.
The third theme i
Geoffrey Fox
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous. Arianna Dagnino takes the reader into some very diverse regions of South Africa and Namibia, and deeper yet into their history (the protagonist is a paleaontologist seeking and finding evidence of the earliest human settlements, possibly the earliest in the world, hundreds of thousands years ago). Most importantly, she takes us just below the social surface to glimpse the raging contradictions exploding in a country that, until just recently, had kept them sealed tight under the Afrik ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This thoughtful and intelligent novel is set in South Africa in 1996 during the transition from the apartheid regime to the first democratically elected black government. From the Cape to the Kalahari we follow Zoe du Plessis, an Afrikaner, as she searches for answers not only in her professional field as a palaeontologist but in her personal life. Multiculturalism, or transculturalism as some reviewers have termed it, is at the heart of the novel, as both whites and blacks explore issues of ide ...more
Arja Salafranca
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s always interesting to see ourselves, as South Africans, reflected through another’s gaze as author Arianna Dagnino does in The Afrikaner. A multi-cultural author with roots in Italy and now resident in Canada, this novel is based on time she spent in this part of the world.

It opens in the mid 1990s. Democratic elections are over and the new ANC government is in power. It opens with a bang, literally, as Wits-based Italian palaeontologist Dario Oldani is shot in a hijacking in Johannesburg’s
J.D. DeHart
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was truly beautiful, lyrical, and compelling, and this is a story brimming with character and place. Arianna Dagnino writes in a way that is attractive and hard to dismiss. The Afrikaner is quite a reading experience, and one I would gladly recommend to others.
Ian Shaw
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful novel, which demonstrates the author's brilliant ability to grasp the human element amidst historic political transition. I read the novel in just two sittings and quickly identified with its characters and their stories. And I loved the descriptions of the landscapes and peoples of the new South Africa. A highly enjoyable read that I would recommend to everyone.
James Fisher
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing read. Full review to follow.
Mommy Reads And Reviews
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you NetGalley, the author Adrianna Dagnino and the publisher for an E ARC of ‘The Afrikaner’.
As a White English-Speaking South African now living in the Uk I couldn’t wait to start this book. It’s written so well it transported me home.
So many lines made me stop and close my eyes so that I could fully immerse myself in the feelings the imagery evoked. I ended up goggling Ms Dagnino as I was confused to see she was Italian, living in Canada. She had to have lived in Southern Africa, as it
Andrei Rizea
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Forbidden Letter,
A Literary Analysis, by
Andrei Rizea

“What you will read in these pages may sound meaningless to you, hardly credible. Nonetheless, it is true. It will be up to you to decide whether to deny the veracity of this confession or accept it and therefore face your destiny with mature awareness. Your fate — our fate — dictates the solitude of the heart” (Dagnino 118).

In a timeless letter addressed to South African palaeontologist Zoe Du Plessis, the story’s protagonist, when she w
Stefan Vucak
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
After her boyfriend and colleague is killed at night in downtown Johannesburg, Professor Zoe Du Plessis, a South African paleontologist, is left devastated. Reading her aunt’s diary, she learns of a family curse that follows every first-born female due to a terrible deed done by one of her ancestors, and she seems to have inherited it. Zoe decides to continue research for traces of early humans in Namibia started by her dead colleague. She hires a Zulu driver and they head off for the Kalahari.
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Slow down, but don’t ever stop.” Never stop at a red light. It’s one of Dario Oldani’s last thoughts as he becomes a victim of a senseless, fatal car jacking in a Central Business District area of South Africa. The tragic event of her lover’s death crushingly changes, while simultaneously cements the course of Dr. Zoe Du Plessis’ life.

Devastated with grief by Dario’s death, Zoe decides to take some time off from the university, and return for a visit to her family home Finistère – a successful
Zoë S. Roy
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Arianna Dagnino’s The Afrikaner tells a story of young professional woman, Zoe Du Plessis, who copes with her fiancé’s sudden death and carries on with what he was doing as a paleontologist. Zoe’s personal story is entwined with her family history as early Boer settlers in South Africa through Zoe’s aunt’s diaries. The protagonist is an admirable idealist; the curse in her family is intriguing. I enjoy the excellent imagery like “The ashen light pours down on hundreds of termite mounds, rising f ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Zoe du Plessis is The Afrikaner. She’s also a palaeontologist, who has lost her fiancé (and also her work colleague) in a car hijacking in Johannesburg. She wants to complete the work they were busy on in the Kalahari. Her own family history and secrets also emerge and threaten to disrupt her life completely.

When I observed that Adrianna Dagnino had spent only five years in South Africa, and written a novel from the perspective she chose, I approached with caution. Surely there would be some cla
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This story pulls you in from the first page as Zoe’s boyfriend is killed in a senseless act of violence in South Africa. Zoe is dealing with grief and deeply searching in both her personal and professional life. As a paleoanthropologist she is obsessed with discovering human fossils. At the same time she is uncovering family secrets through the reading of her aunts diary. Somehow the author is able to weave all of this together and also give you a glimpse into to the culture, politics and beauty ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Generation after generation of first born females born into the du Plessis family carry a secret.
Armed with diaries of those women who came before her, Zoe heads out into the Kalahari desert on a journey of self discovery.

Unfortunately I could not get into this book.
While it started out quite strong, somewhere along the lines of Zoe's Kalahari expedition, the story lost me.
I did enjoy the writing, I just expected the story to go in a different direction.

Still an enjoyable read.
Lalaa #ThisBlackGirlReads
Overall I think this is a well written and engaging story about one woman's search for answers. But there’s also a lot going on in this one. It took me a little longer than normal to get through it but once I did, I really liked the story. Set in South Africa after the apartheid the story follows a fossil hunter who is haunted by a family curse. I loved the setting as well as the sheer brilliance of the main character. Most of all I loved the description of the people and the land.
Stefano Gulmanelli
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and evocative. If you lived in South Africa you'll find yourself fully back into it. If you haven't you'll have a pretty good idea of the complexity of the place and the people - and the spell it can cast upon you. ...more
Feb 09, 2019 added it
“After Zoe enters the Karoo, I had to keep reading […] Set in a South Africa trying to adjust to the recent end of apartheid, The Afrikaner is the compelling story of a fossil-hunter haunted by her family curse. Wise in the ways of paleoanthropology, viticulture, history, and the complex choreography of Boer, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Bushmen, and others, Arianna Dagnino’s novel fulfills its protagonist’s vision of art: ‘Imagination in motion.’”
Kathryn Pentecost
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Arianna Dagnino's transcultural novel transports the reader into the complex and potentially dangerous world of its protagonist within sensually rich descriptions of southern Africa. Dagnino's experiential immersion in her topic is obvious in the detailed and nuanced familiarity she evokes with the various cultural groups that form the basis of her characters. Rarely does one encounter a novelist who can articulate so deftly the multiple perspectives that are at the heart of the changing sociolo ...more
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Arianna Dagnino’s novel is an intricately woven tale of a young white Afrikaner woman who loses her lover and workmate at Wits University – an Italian palaeontologist, Dario Oldani. Dr Oldani, who has been working in South Africa for the past two years, meets his fate in Johannesburg in the early hours of the morning on his way home. Was it a racially motivated murder that robbed Dr Zoe du Plessis of her lover, or was it just an unfortunate incident? After the death of her lover, Zoe sojourns i ...more
Grazyna Nawrocka
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This novel met all my expectations. I wanted to find out how was life in South Africa after apartheid. In Canada I have encountered many white people from there. I was wondering if there were any left in their native country. It turns out, that yes, and they try to build fragile balance in moving forward.

The romantic layer of the story did not appeal to me. Just like characters of the story, I also believe, that even though past shapes us, we should move forward with our lives.
Cindy Vallar
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Devastated at the senseless death of her lover, South African paleontologist Zoe Du Plessis flees Johannesburg for her childhood home on the Cape. She risked her heart, only to discover that the warnings of her female ancestors weren’t absurd chimeras of previous firstborn daughters. To come to terms with both reality and her grief, she embarks on a journey of inner reflection that is intertwined with acceptance of the past, standing up for what she believes, and taking chances in spite of her o ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
There is a lot going on in this book ranging from the murder of the main character's lover, to her family history, the use of paleontology as a comparison to political struggles, racism and inequality. It's complex and well written, but it just didn't speak to me. I just couldn't relate to the main character. I may come back and try again later. This book may have suffered from timing with other books of a similar nature so I may go back and try again at a later date, but as of this moment the b ...more
Jayne Southern
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Secrets and resurrection
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 November 2019
The murder of her lover and colleague in a downtown Johannesburg hijacking impels Zoe to seek sanctuary on the family wine estate in the Cape and then to retreat to the Kalahari to further an archaeological dig started by her lover. The author's finely balanced and elegant probing of multifaceted shades of secrets, regret, shame, pride, respect and facts prises open the tortured conscience of a nation in turmoil, the colle
Isabeau Iqbal
I enjoyed this book as it brought me to a land I know very little about and taught me about history through the story inside.
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I am the author of the post-apartheid novel The Afrikaner (Guernica, Toronto, 2019), an on-the-road adventure story of hate, love, guilt and redemption under the African sky (now in audiobook format too!
In my career as an international reporter, literary translator and academic researcher, I have lived in many countries, including a five-year stint in Sou

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