ECS Soutpansberg reviews of Under the African Sun by Gail Gilbride.
Phuluso Ndou (grade 12)
Having learned about the apartheid era in the classroom, listened to stories and watched movies about the infamous era, the anti-apartheid struggle seemed to me only for black people. Under the African Sun gives an amazing glimpse into the struggle for democracy in South Africa. The book made me see my own country’s people in a whole new light – I now realise that there were also white people who did not agree with the apartheid system and I actually have realised that South Africa is a caring nation.
Chris Jarvis, the main character in Under the African Sun, helped me to see how, in order to be active in the struggle, people basically abandoned their loved ones and isolated themselves in order to protect their families. His girlfriend, Deborah, tried her best to show him she cared and went to the extent of trying to hide his illegal books to protect him. This book shows what true, selfless and undying love is.
The book shows the struggle from a different (and I think better) perspective. It makes me realise the meaning of Ubuntu – we are what we are because of other people. If not for people like Chris Jarvis and his comrades who were willing to sacrifice everything for the struggle, leaving their families for months without even a single phone call, we would not live in this peaceful, democratic country we have today. The book took me to the apartheid era, crying from cover to cover as I realised how beautifully painful the struggle was. I could not stop crying when I read about Deborah being taken in and beaten by officials when she would not reveal Chris’ whereabouts to them.
Although the author leaves us hanging about Chris and his girlfriend’s relationship, we are still able to see that true love never has to die and once a person becomes actively involved in a cause in which they believe, they are not likely to give up easily. A thought-provoking book indeed. I advise you to get your hands on this book and I promise that reading it will be one of the most amazing adventures your mind will ever go on. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Grace Chikava (grade 8)
Under the African Sun is unlike any other apartheid era book – a romance novel! Author Gail Gilbride has a way of making the reader embark on an emotional roller-coaster. The novel is set in the 1970’s when apartheid resistance campaigns were at their peak and loss of blood and human lives were becoming rather habitual. The book permits us insight into the life of Deborah – a girl who would rather die than betray the man she passionately loves, Christopher.
Chris is not only a political lecturer but a non-belligerent, anti-apartheid activist. He strives to see all South Africans equal before the law. He is in love with Deborah, or “Pix” as he nicknamed her. Like Deborah’s friends, I sometimes felt conflicted and doubted how genuine his love for the beautiful blonde was, as Chris seems to have a ‘female friend’ whom he refuses to discuss.
Up to a point in the novel, Deborah seems oblivious to the disgrace of the apartheid system – that is, until she is assigned to shadow Charlie – a political reporter with whom she works at the newspaper company. The young optimist’s courage and strength is put to the test when she struggles with a state security branch agent as she objects to giving him information that would implicate Chris and his anti-apartheid friends in the struggle. Deborah’s “happy-ever-after” story with the enchanting Chris is jeopardized and shattered for the sake of the struggle. Hopefully the mysterious prince charming who follows her across the world will bring her gorgeous spark back into her eyes, as the struggle left her and her loved ones tainted and helpless.
Under the African Sun left me somewhat bewildered. I had been in the dark for so long because an important part of our history was edited out – there were people from all races who fought against the unjust apartheid laws. From this book I have come to realise that the struggle against apartheid did not only revolve around the lives of the dark-skinned population. It was rather about humanity and the ability of one’s soul to truly love. I have been taught to see past the barrier of race. From the courageous main characters I have learned to love unconditionally and to toil for equality.
The book is unlike any other book I have read. It is both educational and exceptionally entertaining. It kept me on the edge of my seat, the flip of every page intensifying my need to know and learn more. It is definitely a must-read for those who advocate justice and equality for humanity.
Mulanga Nethamba (Grade 12)
Under the African Sun is a beautifully written book set in the apartheid era. It covers issues faced by all races in South Africa during the struggle against apartheid such as fighting, hiding, suffering, courage, separation and death.
As much as I love reading, I have certain books that I read and I have never developed an interest in reading books about politics. However, this specific book has changed my way of thinking.
This fictional novel based on true happenings, makes one aware that black people were not the only ones who despised segregation. As events unfold, author Gail Gilbride illustrates how there were some who did not want race to be the reason for our nation to be torn apart. I was so touched when I read the part where Deborah, the main character in the novel, went to the extent of being ashamed of the colour of her skin. Most importantly she shows us that it was not a black struggle, but it was OUR struggle (Black, White, Coloured and Indian). The book took my mind to another dimension of understanding – the fear, pain, torture and torment was being experienced by all races that were part of the struggle.
This novel kept me guessing. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to know what happened on 16 June from the perspective and experience of a white person. Under the African Sun evoked emotions in me that I could not comprehend. Even with tears running down my face, I could not stop reading it because with every flip of a page curiosity grew to find out what happened in the next chapters. I allowed myself to be swept along with the pages. Reading it was so much deeper than I had expected and to this day I cannot believe that Gail left me hanging!! I loved reading the book, will definitely read it again and recommend for others to read it too.
Cannot wait for part 2!!
Lesego Mulaudzi (grade 10)
Firstly I would love to thank the Lord, the School and Gail Gilbride for having granted me the opportunity to read and review the book, Under the Africa Sun. The novel is a delight!! It is a wonderful book to read and also serves as an eye-opener about the struggles of apartheid as it unveils secrets that are unknown to most South Africans today.
It is heart-breaking but inspiring that people like Jimmy James, who I believe the author disguised as Chris Jarvis, sacrificed their lives for the struggle. The novel has given me a different view and I now understand that it was not only black South Africans upon whom Apartheid inflicted suffering.
Author Gail Gilbride has a unique way of fiddling with one’s emotions. I myself became emotionally involved as I read the book and I was very quickly an impatient reader because the optimism in me made me believe that Deborah and Chris could somehow, somewhere end up getting married. When Deborah visited Chris on the family farm after his discharge from hospital, I felt a lump in my throat and shed tears because of Chris’ terrible circumstances. I actually had to put the book down for two days in order to get over it and carry on reading.
I am very curious because the author left me hanging as to whether Deborah continued smoking and did she ever marry Charlie? I hope that one day I can be able to watch a movie on this and also read more of the author’s books.
Mpho Mphephu (Grade 10)
Under the African Sun is one of a kind. A book that encapsulates true emotions from the past might seem obsolete in this day and age. However, in this case, it makes sense to the modern reader. I personally enjoyed the commemoration of that time and how we are informed that in that infamous era the struggle was for all, regardless of race or occupation. Reading the book has enabled me to experience a part of renowned history that has never been stressed before.
Every time I read this book, I feel as if I have been transported into another lifetime where often pretence masks mutual feelings. It makes me question myself and I am reluctant to answer. This book has made me realise the significance of decision making and how to implement these decisions effectively. One of the life-changing messages I received through the book is to never try to be someone you are not for someone else’s pleasure, because you will only be robbing yourself of fulfilling your treasured destiny.
Under the African Sun is indeed an eye-opening, jaw-dropping and mind-blowing book.
A phenomenal book!!