Review: Child of the River – Irma Joubert

Irma Joubert. Child of the River. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

Last fall, I featured Irma Joubert’s first novel that was released in English by Thomas Nelson.  This year, she is releasing a new book, exclusively featuring her home country of South Africa.

Child of the River follows Persomi as she grows up as a poor white girl living in the South African Bushveld.  While the farmers of the area enjoy a prosperous life before the events of the Second World War, Persomi and her family live as illiterate sharecroppers, dependent on the care and provision of the farm’s owners.  Persomi befriends the farmer’s children, but recognizes the inherent separation between their social positions.  When her family falls apart and exciting opportunities become available to her, Persomi begins to experience the wider world of educated children, loving families, and stable professions.  Through the years of World War II and apartheid, Persomi grows from a powerless child into a crusader for justice and equality in her homeland.

The hardship of Persomi’s family and growing up years offers a fascinating view of South African life during the mid-twentieth century.  Readers who enjoyed Ms. Joubert’s American debut, The Girl From the Train, will be thrilled to find a new release from this internationally-acclaimed author.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Child of the River.  Ms. Joubert produces a unique and compelling story for her audience, as she brings the life of rural sharecroppers to readers who have likely never known about the South African Bushveld.  In general, Ms. Joubert uses a writing style similar to that found in The Girl From the Train.  However, the novel focuses on historical elements more unique to South Africa, rather than the broader perspective of the global impact of World War II, which changes the nature of Ms. Joubert’s sources and character development.  In contrast to The Girl from the Train, I found that I never became entirely attached to the characters of Child of the River, in part due to their rather confusing relationships with one another.  Likewise, the quintessential “coming of age” storyline never completely caught my attention as much as the story devices used within Ms. Joubert’s previous novel.  However, I still thought that it was a strong novel that shows further growth and expansion of the Christian fiction genre globally.

Fans of Ms. Joubert’s previous release, The Girl from the Train, will want to try Child of the River.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction, especially as related to the Second World War and the mid-twentieth century, may also want to check out this novel.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the advanced copy of Child of the River!

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