16 Oct 2011


Growing up in remote British protectorate (now Boswana) in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, Carolyn Slaughter was inspired by the stark beauty of her childhood home. All too soon, this magnificent and isolated landscape would become a refuge for a six-year-old with nowhere to turn. Neither her mother, doomed by depression and guilt, nor her sister could shield her from the most terrible of violations. In the end she would learn not only how to survive but how to save her soul.
....... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter one): I was going to say that my first memory of our life in Africa was at Riley's Hotel in Maun, at the top of Botswana, on the edge of the Okavango Delta.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 187): What is the meaning of all this hurting, missy, why all the time falling down and breaking bones? You should be in charge of yourself better by now. When I was your age, in Nyasaland, I was in charge of a whole herd of goats and three cows.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: I have several family members waiting to read this.

Another memoir, I read this one because just lately I have read a few novels set in South Africa which gave a glimpse into its history and culture and I wanted to read something a bit more factual.

Reading the blurb on the back cover I had assumed that this was the story of yet another woman's dysfunctional family with South Africa as a backdrop. Not so, as though Carolyn did talk of her mother's depression and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, she did not dwell on it and concentrated more on her experiences of growing up in South Africa, frequently moving home and being schooled in various boarding schools some of which were to prove less than desirable, others downright abusive.

Beautifully written, Carolyn's description of her childhood experiences being brought up in pre-independent Africa during the years of colonial rule paint a wonderful, yet sometimes stark, picture of the African landscape and just how she grew to identify with its inhabitants, running, as her mother saw it, quite feral.

All in all, a good read, though Before The Knife did contain elements of sexual and emotional abuse and as such was a difficult read at times it somehow managed to fall short of being too bleak or voyeuristic, elements that all too often leave me feeling uncomfortable reading such memoirs.

A supermarket purchase, this is the 71st book read for the 100+ Reading Challenge.


Kelly said...

One of my favorite series takes place in Botswana (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency), but I don't think this particular book appeals to me. I'm pretty picky when it comes to memoirs.

naida said...

I like the south african setting. This does sound like an interesting memoir.

chitra said...

Hi PW,here to say hello...was travelling would be back soon to read post..

GMR said...

Sounds like this young lady grew into a remarkable woman. To share a story like that must be difficult but if anything can be gleaned from it for another whether it be the strength to save themselves or the inspiration to bring goodness to the world, all the better that message be spread. Thanks for the share Tracey!