In this book by the South African writer Connie Luyt we follow three women of three generations in their journey from South Africa to British East Africa (Kenya) and back to South Africa and on to Kenya.
We first meet Francine van Rensburg (born June 3, 1877). Francine is a Labuschagne who married into the farming family of the Van Rensburgs. It is quite a large family (a family tree at the start of the book would have worked miracles 😉 ). The pater familias Andries has taken the decision to leave South Africa after the Boer have lost the war against the British Empire. There are passages to show the hardship during the final period of this war, the time at a camp for women and children at Middelburg (about 6.000 people stayed here). The harsh attitude of the Brittish (with the exception of one soldier who gets familiar with Francine, who thinks her husband Karel has been killed during the war). After the war Karel turns up, the relationship with Francine is frozen. Francine is pregnant from her soldier-boy.
Connie Luyt has done research into the postwar trek of Boers to British East Africa (especially the Uasin Gishu Plateau). In 1909 Andries and his clan sail to Mombasa, by train to Nairobi, by wagon to the Plateau, cutting your own road in the primeval forests in harsh conditions. The family are members of the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (but faith has a marginal existence in their life), so we even meet rev. Loubser who worked as a pastor on the Plateau (I have the idea there is some anachronism involved with the entrance of Loubser. In the book his name turns up in 1908, while he actually did arrive in 1910). The name of the congregation in Eldoret was ‘Vergenoeg’, in this book ‘Vergenoeg’ is the name of the farm run by Karel and Francien.
Next we meet Maia van Breda (born July 1, 1920), daughter of Karel and Francine van Rensburg. She is raised on the farm ‘Vergenoeg’. She meets her future husband Tom van Breda when the congregation has a ‘Lord’s Supper-weekend’ at Thompson Falls (another area in Kenya with many Boer-settlers). On their farm “Tene-na-Tene”, there is in the late thirties already a simmering unrest, the name of Jomo Kenyatta enters the pages of the book. The Second World War has an impact on Kenya as well. Tom joins the army in Europe, with one of the trackers on his farm. During the post-war Emergency Tom spends much time in tracking members of the MauMau. Reports get in that he has been killed. There is an attack on the farm and Maia decides to move to South Africa with her two children.
Finally we meet Christine van Breda (born June 4 1944), daughter of Tom and Maia. She had a very special relationship with her father and she misses him and life in Kenya very much. She did not want to move to the South. She prefers to stay with the rich stepbrother Charl and his wife Antoinette to staying with her mother at a remote farm. She studies at an Art College and sells her paintings, she marries and divorces (no stable relationships for the three highlighted women !). After reading notes and diaries of her grandmother Francine she decides to travel to Kenya to visit her past. This part of the book is not the best part of the book. Characters that pop up are used to spread information about the past and the present of Kenya, there is name-dropping, too many weird coincidences, poor handling of Swahili (writing about ‘mutata’ instead of ‘matatu’ and a confusing attempt to explain this word). The writer could have done better here, noting the first parts of the book.
Connie Luyt – Lang skaduwees over Afrika – 2007