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John Simkin

Olive Schreiner

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Olive Schreiner's novel was rejected by several publishers. In 1883 she was introduced to George Meredith who worked as a reader for the publishers, Chapman & Hall. She showed him the novel about life in South Africa. He was very impressed and the Story of an African Farm was published later that year. The novel tells the story of Lyndall, a woman living on an isolated ostrich farm. The book was praised by feminists who approved of the strong heroine who controls her own destiny. Acclaimed by the critics, the book sold well in both Britain and America. W.T. Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, claimed that Schreiner was "the only woman of genius South Africa has ever produced".

Her biographer, Joyce Avrech Berkman, has argued: "The Story of an African Farm wrestles with her most painful childhood and adolescent experiences. Focused on two primary figures, the novel mingles linear sequences, flashbacks, extended allegories, authorial moralizing, comic and introspective passages, and haunting descriptions of the South African Karoo... Through the poetic spirit of Waldo the novel depicts the terrifying stages of a young person's loss of Christian faith and his search for spiritual and moral direction within a world of natural and human cruelty inseparable from goodness and beauty."


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