Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blog Tour - Review and Interview: Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent

Welcome to my stop on Tundra Books' blog tour for Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent! As my part of the tour, I'm reviewing Trilby's new novel and also asking her a few questions!

About the book (from Tundra's website): Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy: the Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter. Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend, Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers.

But Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms. Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy. The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps. Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor she finds in the camp at Kroonstad? That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had….

My review: Even as an American reader, I found Stones for My Father, though focused on a British and Dutch conflict, to be an interesting read. Personally, it was eye-opening for me to read about how the British treated the Boers - horrific concentration camps, about fifty years before the Germans used them in the Holocaust. Here's a picture of one of the young inmates of the camps with a description of how she was treated (Trilby's book is unaffiliated with the photograph, but depicts many of the things she's describing). Besides the plot itself being interesting, Trilby's storytelling is good as well. She keeps the plot moving, and even with a busy schedule I managed to read the book in one day because I didn't want to stop reading. There's very little to critique about the novel, though one thing is that there were a few details that I thought could have been expanded upon more. For example, Corlie, the main character, at one point suddenly begins to refer to herself as a calabash shell, which, of course, breaks at the end of the story. It would seem that this metaphor would be a major feature of the later part of the book, yet it is briefly, suddenly mentioned only three or four times. But this is just a minor detraction from Stones for My Father, and it doesn't subtract from the fact that it's still an educational, fascinating, and eye-opening read - and nicely appropriate for middle grade/YA readers who haven't been exposed to this part of history yet.

And now for some questions for Trilby herself, who kindly took the time to answer them:

1. At least for American readers, the Boer War is a little-known historical event. What led to your decision to write a children's historical fiction novel about it?

We'd probably all be much more familiar with that period in history had the First World War not happened. So many things that we associate with later wars - trench warfare, guerrila fighting, internment camps, etc. - made their first appearance in the Boer War, and it was surprising to me that all of that drama and tragedy (against an African backdrop, to boot!) hadn't really been used in a children's or YA novel before. My mother is South African, so I was also keen to explore that part of our family's history.
2. Are any of the characters in Stones for My Father based on specific people?
No - unusually for me, the characters in this book all emerged without any conscious influences from historical figures or people I've known. This time around, I think that I was focusing more on capturing different types of 'spirit': I couldn't tell you exactly how every character looks, for instance, but I'd definitely recognize them if I passed them in the street!
3. What is your favorite historical event/era to read about?
I find the 1930s an absolutely fascinating decade - sandwiched between the decadence of the 20s and the hardships of the 40s, with memories of the Great War still quite raw. I'm also currently going through a bit of a postwar phase, reading lots of mid-century literature while I cobble together a new book that takes place in the 1950s.
4. Did you read much historical fiction growing up, and what were/are your favorite historical fiction books?
For me, as a kid, it was all about the French Revolution and Victorian England - and the Second World War, too. So, everything from The Wolves of Willhoughby Chase to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
5. Do you have any current writing projects?
I'm currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing, for which I have to write a new novel. This one's for adults, but it's set in a boarding school on an island in the North Sea and the main characters are mostly thirteen and fourteen years old. At the moment it's called The Peppermill, although that may change. I'm also really keen to start working on the next YA book. It will also be historical, but a bit more weird and wacky than what I've done before. Watch this space..!

Also as part of this blog tour, Tundra Books is giving away five copies of Stones for My Father on GoodReads!

Previous blog stop: Krissy Brady, Writer: Keeping the Passion for Writing Alive

1 comment:

  1. Great reveiw and interview. Even in Canada I learned very little about this war. In fact, I can't recall it ever being a topic in history classes. I am not inspired to learn more about that time period.