Vividly set against the backdrop of 19th century India and the British-owned sugarcane plantations of Natal, written with great tenderness and lyricism, Children of Sugarcane paints an intimate and wrenching picture of indenture told from a woman’s perspective.
Shanti, a bright teenager stifled by life in rural India and facing an arranged marriage, dreams that South Africa is an opportunity to start afresh. The Colony of Natal is where Shanti believes she can escape the poverty, caste, and troubling fate of young girls in her village. Months later, after a harrowing sea voyage, she arrives in Natal only to discover the profound hardship and slave labour that await her.
Spanning four decades and two continents, Children of Sugarcane demonstrates the lifegiving power of love, heartache, and the indestructible bonds between family and friends. These bonds prompt heroism and sacrifice, the final act of which leads to Shanti’s redemption.
Shanti is a survivor, a memorable character whose voice stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I learnt so much about this dreadful part of our history from this book, all along loving Shanti’s courage and fighting spirit. She’s a wonderful literary heroine at the centre of a truly special novel. ~ Mervyn