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John Bojé Reviews Five Books on South Africa’s History

The Great Trek UncutVegter en ballingAngels of Mercy
Portrait of a Slave SocietyThe Baronet and the Savage King

Four carrots and a stick

The shock of recognition when one returns to a place one once knew is a strange and not unpleasant experience. In large measure, this was my reaction to The Great Trek Uncut. As if by magic I was transported back to my Grade 5 classroom, listening to my teacher’s gripping account of South African history.

Binckes’s story is engrossing because the issues are so clear-cut, the antagonists so clearly differentiated. The reader is drawn into the narrative by the use of emotive language. One lot steal cattle; the other lot confiscate them; they have spies while we have scouts; they flee from a battle while we withdraw. Reader identification is aided by pointers such as “fortunately”; thus: “Fortunately, the Englishman reacted swiftly and blasted a hole in the Zulu’s head.” Fortunately for whom?

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