This book is actually Book 5 in a series on South Africa and the
Afrikaners called "The Louis Wessels Commando Series." And indeed,
in reading this book I felt like I was stepping into the middle
of something already begun. Not only was I in the dark about Louis
Wessels, the hero of the story, but there was a sense of historical
omission that I could not shake.
The book tells the true story of the Boer Wars with England in
South Africa during the early 1900s. The English were trying to
colonize South Africa, even though the Dutch (Afrikaners or Boers)
had already colonized the area. The ensuing war decimated entire
populations. This story follows several families who have been
put in concentration camps by the British and highlights the terrible
conditions of these camps and their effects on the residents. The
camps were filled primarily with women and young children, as all
of the men and older boys had gone to fight in the war against
the British, trying to hold their territory. The conditions in
the camp were truly horrific, resulting in thousands of deaths.
The faith of the women was all that sustained them through downpours,
typhoid outbreaks, near starvation, torrid conditions, and frequent
The residents of the specific camp where the story takes place
are awaiting the arrival of a national hero, Louis Wessels, who
will liberate the camp and release them from their suffering. Commando
Wessels does finally come, but all does not go as planned due to
betrayal in the camp.
The thing that bothered me about the story was that it focused
on the evils perpetrated against Afrikaners by the British as they
tried to take over "their" land. The Afrikaners were living peaceably
in the land that, in their minds at least, God had given them.
However, there is no mention of the evils they perpetrated on the
original residents of the land--the South African people. The Afrikaners
feel that injustice has been done, and indeed it was, but there
was no mention of their sins against those who truly had the God-given
right to live in the land in the first place. In fact, the only
mentions of the African people were derogatory, in discussing their
alliance with the British, who they thought might give them back
the freedom that had originally been stolen from them.
I do realize that an American history book on the Revolution or
the War of 1812 would appear very much the same, especially if
it told only of the Americans who were suffering under the tyranny
of the British soldiers and did not mention the Native Americans
who suffered first and lost their lands to the American colonists.
So I acknowledge that historical novels generally are written from
the viewpoint of one side of the story, often ignoring other aspects
that would make for a richer and more comprehensive historical
narrative. The positive aspect of that, however, is that in my
case, it caused me to want to seek out additional information about
the Boer Wars in South Africa and the history of that fascinating