Out of Mind


A story of Robben Island is set in the years 1908 to 1909, during the period that the colonial government used the Island as a secure place of isolation for people with leprosy, and patients suffering from mental afflictions. Out of sight, out of mind of the good people of Cape Town.

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Out of Mind

All the working people on the Island except the lighthouse keeper, shopkeeper, priests, teachers, and the girl, Leentjie who was regarded as “extra”, are employed to maintain the system of incarceration: the skipper who ships the patients from Cape Town to the asylums and settlements on the Island, the constables, leper and lunatic guards and attendants, the clerks who keep meticulous records, and the medical staff. Apart from occasional days of leave when they can escape by ferry across the often treacherous seas to Cape Town, they are all essentially trapped in their small community where they are obliged to interact in the course of their daily duties. People are always watching and very little of what they do escapes the notice of others, particularly the notice and censure of the Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer who head the hierarchy of civil servants. They decide who can stay and who must leave.

Reggie van Riet, the diligent new senior clerk, arrives on the Island determined to do his best. On his very first day he meets Vera Godwin, the theatre sister, and despite her aloof response, he is smitten. But there is “a story” about her, and as the plot unfolds, this and the dark secrets and lies of other characters are revealed against the backdrop of the bleak, sinister Island which has its own dreadful past. What will happen when the truth is uncovered?

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