FIELA'S CHILD by Dalene Matthee
Kirkus Star

FIELA'S CHILD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this colorful and moving second novel, Matthee returns to the late-19th-century South African landscape of Circles in a Forest (1984), but this time with a simpler, stronger story and a wonderful sense of pace and scale. ""Fiela's child"" is Benjamin Komoetie, 12 years old at the time of the first South African census in the Long Kloof badlands above the fishing town of Knysna. The Africaans census takers find Benjamin--a white boy, origins unknown--living among blacks, and remove him; a backward, white forest-family comes to Knysna to claim him as their missing son, lost in the forest on the Long Kloof's southern ridge nine years before. None of the heroic efforts of Fiela Komoetie, who knows that Benjamin is not the forest family's missing boy, can save Benjamin from a fate based on a mistake; he is destined to live and work as Lukas Van Rooyen, among forest people who are backward, silent and cruel, until he is a man and can find his way back home. This he does years later, now with a man's urgent sense of purpose: having fallen in love with Nina Van Rooyen, his wild, wood-nymph of a ""sister,"" Lukas/Benjamin must find out who he really is before it is too late. The characters in this novel live and breathe; and the landscape is so brightly painted that the trees, birds, elephants and rivers of old South Africa are characters themselves. A book not to miss.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1986
ISBN: 0226510832
Publisher: Knopf