From My Bookshelf: Bryce Courtney

By Lynn Willoughby

Whitethorn ~ Bryce Courtney
Some time ago I was invited to lunch and each of us was asked to set our own place to remind us of our favourite author. I chose Courtney as I have been deeply moved by all of his novels, and knew I could defend my choice.
Whitethorn was published in 2005, but I somehow missed it. While very different from other Courtney fiction, it did not disappoint.
This is a fictional account of a white child growing up in South Africa. He is an orphan and an outcast at The Boys Farm, because of his English name – Fitzsaxby. He is bullied and harassed by boys and staff alike at this Boers facility. The adult Boers remember that twenty six thousand women and children died at the hands of the English in the Boer Wars. The boys are just bullies run wild.
There is a fair bit of the recent history of South Africa and Kenya – from the 1950s and 60s. And although we follow Tom Fitzsaxby on his journey through life, we learn a whole lot of what else was going on in that part of the world. Courtney does a tremendous job of telling this story through the eyes of a seven year old boy – his hurts, his joys. Even the socio-ploitical scenes are described in a style that rings true to a young person. Although South Africa sided with the Allies during WWII, the Afrikaners secretly (and not so secretly) are definitely pro-Hitler.
Tom is an exceptional child with so much warmth and love for the downtrodden (he has personally lived it). He befriends the Pig Boy at the farm, who is a black Zulu man not really considered human by the Afrikaners. As Tom grows older this love of justice leads him into some very strange situations – including the Mau Mau rebellion.
This is a great book. Although long, I loved it.
  • The Power of One
  • Brother Fish
…………….and many others
Who Knew?
During the second Boer War, 1899-1902, the English forced Boer women, children and men unfit for service into concentration camps. The abhorrent conditions caused the death of 4,177 women, 22,074 children and 1,676 men.
This was called, by the English, the “Concentration Camp Policy” and is the first we hear of concentration camps during war time.