Book Review - The Shouting In The Dark

by Elleke Boehmer (Jacana) ISBN 9781431422333 

This book had me enthralled. It is haunting, honest, and beguiling. It resonated with echoes of The Poisonwood Bible, and I couldn’t put it down. The story stayed with me long after I finished reading. Now I want to read all her books.

It’s an intimate, disturbing portrait of a girl growing up in South Africa during the seventies. Nine-year-old Ella moves to rural Braemar, fifty miles from Durban, with her Dutch parents: the angry father, Har and the unhappy mother, Irene.

Both parents are abusive. The mother, because of her fear and tears, administers sleeping tablets to her young daughter. The father belittles his only daughter. He spends long, drunk, cursing nights on the veranda, ‘shooting out words like bullets’. Hence the shouting-in-the-dark of the title. His sorrow comes from his experiences during the war and losing the love of his life, hers from missing Holland and her unhappy marriage. Irene married her sister’s widower and named Ella after her.

Ella watches, absorbs the rage, stands up to her father and finally writes about it. ‘Writing, she notices, fuels her courage’.  Highly recommended. 

Pauline Vijverberg


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