Under the African Sun

A few reviews from High School learners in the Zoutpansberg. 

(ECS school  –  Principal Sandy James)

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!!


Under the African Sun is, in my opinion, not a conventional love story.  It is a “life” story that vividly transports one to the desperate struggle against prejudice in South Africa in the 1970’s.  When I took up the book to read it, I could not put it down.  I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, caught up in a whirlwind of action and raw emotion.

I believe that the book is a ‘must read’ for all South Africans, young and old.  It is a reminder to all of us that South Africans of all races were part of the struggle against apartheid and the consequences thereof.  As the author mentions, the book is fictional, but based on real-life events.  The unfolding of the events in the book draws the reader into an emotional, real-life journey, intensely portraying how the main character’s life is enriched by her love for the activist, yet severely traumatised by her association with him due to political oppression.

Jimmy James, to whom author Gail Gilbride has dedicated her book, spent more than thirty years in a wheel chair after his accident in 1978 –  a gentle spirit whose participation in the struggle against the Apartheid regime was based on his sense of justice and righteousness towards all races and cultures.  Although confined to a wheelchair, Jimmy never lost the twinkle in his eye and did not harbour any regret or bitterness for his own suffering as a result of his participation in the struggle.

The James family is honoured that Gail has dedicated her book to Jimmy.   I believe that those who read it will come away from the pages with a much deeper understanding of our South African struggle and the fact that people of different racial backgrounds were prepared to put their lives on the line for a cause that transcends racial barriers.  The book does not only give insight into part of the history of South Africa, but it is a global message that should touch the hearts of people across the world.  It is proof that unity of heart and vision does not have to depend on ethnicity, which is, after all, the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ just before He gave His life for mankind, (“Father make them one…” John 17:21).

A highly recommended read!

Michael Stewart’s review of Under The African Sun

I’ve just finished reading Under the African Sun, a thoroughly authentic step back into 1970’s South Africa and an immersion into the intrigue, music, slang and idealism of an era when the ideological    ‘Struggle’ against Apartheid was reaching a crescendo. A seamless blend of political fact and romantic fiction, this is an enthralling read and an insight into a polarizing period that was a catalyst for change in a turbulent country whose uncertain future will be defined by yet more activism.

Michael Stewart – an Exile

What readers are saying about
“Under the African Sun” by Gail Gilbride

 Jennifer De Klerk

A delightful historical romance set in turbulent South Africa in the mid-1970s, Under the African Sun tells a deeply personal tale of love, heart-break, friendship and coming-of-age. It accentuates the fact that, regardless of what is happening in the world around us, we (particularly as young adults) are largely shaped by who we love and how we are loved in return. Navigating her way in her first job after graduating from university while also dreaming of marriage, Deborah Morley is compelled to face some of apartheid’s most dreadful enforcers because of her boyfriend, Chris Jarvis’s activist undertakings. Then, increasingly unsure about her career as a trainee news reporter, plagued by feelings of uncertainty about her relationship and perpetually worried about her boyfriend’s safety, Deborah leans on her friends for support – despite their disapproval of Chris. Gail Gilbride tells Deborah’s story with skill and sensitivity. Under the African Sun is a charming, sincere and convincing story with an ending that demands a sequel.

Penny de Vos – PMH Publications cc   

Under the African Sun is a tale about that desperate time just after university when career choices are made intertwined with mating matters – love, desire, work, all jostle for time and space. Gail Gilbride’s new novel puts the puzzle pieces of a young graduate’s love life into a swirl of emotion and choice, set on South Africa’s 1970s stage with the grim backdrop of apartheid’s security police looming. Fresh, entertaining, emotional and enjoyable, this old-fashioned love story with a twist is a delight to read.

Peter Sullivan, former Editor of The Johannesburg Star.   

In her story of love in a time of turmoil, Gail Gilbride has captured the fear, the excitement, the danger of a country on the brink. Through a young woman’s coming of age, she documents also that of a society.

Dr Jo-Anne Richards, mentor at
Her latest novel is “The Imagined Child.”

Gail Gilbride’s Under the African Sun asks whether love can survive the turmoil and ideological confusion of South Africa’s political liberation. The answers it provides are both provocative and inspiring.

Richard Beynon, mentor at

A hauntingly beautiful love story set against difficult times in South Africa. I carry it with me in my heart.

Marie-Anne Ogle, Communication Skills lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

A love story like this definitely needs to be shared.
Deborah is a character I think so many people can relate to. It’s great that in the story she accepts herself the way she is – starts writing what she wants to write – and becomes stronger. And that throughout those years of turmoil she retains her kindness and follows her heart. Though life dealt her and Chris a terrible blow, at the end the reader feels like both of them know they had something very special and will be okay. What I have got from your story is a reminder that love is such a gift.

Gillian Gilbride, First class flight attendant and part-time recruiter at Etihad airlines.

Gail Gilbride’s debut novel, Under the African Sun, set in South Africa during the apartheid era, is a richly observed tale of love, heartbreak and personal and political turmoil, delivered with poignancy and a touch of humor. Readers will want to turn the pages to find out how the characters deal with and rise above the conflicts that threaten their happiness and their futures in a country torn by racial discord. Deftly written, heartfelt, and engaging, this charming book will appeal particularly to lovers of romance and historical fiction.

Lynette Brasfield, author, Nature Lessons: A Novel, St. Martin’s Press, NY, 2003, which was selected as a 2003 BookSense pick by the Independent Bookstores of America and winner of NAMI’s 2003 Outstanding Literature Award.

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