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Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1993.

Historical fiction set in apartheid South Africa, selected by Forbes Library Staff. Summaries from ContentCafe, NoveList, Wikipedia, March 2011.

  • Age of Iron by J.M. Coetzee
    South African professor Mrs. Curren has always been opposed to apartheid's brutality though she has lived isolated from its horrors, but as she nears death from cancer, she confronts a generation of blood and revenge.
  • Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor
    The last time Silas Ali encountered the Lieutenant, Silas was locked in the back of a police van and the Lieutenant was conducting a vicious assault on Lydia, his wife. When Silas sees him again, by chance, crimes from the past erupt into the present, splintering the Ali's fragile family life.
  • Imaginings of Sand by André Brink
    When Kristien Muller returns to South Africa to be with her dying grandmother, injured in a terrorist attack on her isolated mansion, the two women reflect on the past to confront the realities of a nation on the brink of monumental social and political upheaval.
  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
    The deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
  • The Smell of Apples by Mark Carl Behr
    The smell of apples is a time bomb of a novel. Set in the bitter twilight of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, it is a haunting story narrated by an eleven-year-old child, Marnus Erasmus, who simply and devastatingly records the social turmoil and racial oppression that are destroying his own land. Using his family as a microcosm of the corroding society at large, Marnus tells a troubling tale - of a childhood corrupted, of unexpected sexual defilements, and of an innocence gone awry.
  • The White Lioness : a mystery by Henning Mankell, translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson
    Inspector Wallander investigates the execution of a Swedish housewife, which uncovers a plot to assassinate Nelson Mandela and leads him into a tangle with the South African secret service. This is the third in Kurt Wallander series.
  • Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
    Michael K, a young South African, becomes unwillingly and unwittingly involved in a war in South Africa after he loses his gardening job in Capetown and embarks on an odyssey to return his dying mother to her homeland.
  • July's People by Nadine Gordimer
    When South Africa is riven by war and the Smales, a white couple, take refuge in the village of their former servant July, their relationships are completely transformed.
  • Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona
    This powerful novel starts with a 1993 incident in South African history: Fulbright scholar Amy Elizabeth Biehl, in Capetown to help organize elections, was killed in the black township of Guguletu. The killer's mother, Mandisa, addresses herself to the mother of the dead girl, gives a compelling account of the harrowing life of Africans in the townships.
  • A Dry White Season by André Brink
    His sense of justice outraged by the death of a Black friend, white South African schoolteacher Ben Du Toit searches for the truth and challenges the assumptions on which his racist society is founded.
  • A Blade of Grass Lewis DeSoto
    Rendered alone after an act of violence at her South African farm, British newlywed Märit Laurens struggles to keep the farm working despite disputes between the farm workers and the local Afrikaner community, finding a single supporter in her black housekeeper, Tembi.

Category: Reading Lists, Historical Fiction

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