In writing the first great South African novel, Olive Schreiner drew on childhood memories of life on the isolated African veld to fashion a powerful indictment of the rigid Boer and English social conventions of her day. This 1883 bestseller, published under the pseudonym Ralph Iron, was greeted by both praise and condemnation for its feminist views on women's status and on marriage, and for its unorthodox critique of dishonesty and hypocrisy in the doctrines and practices of "respectable" Christian church people.
The tale begins with three childhood playmates growing up on a sheep farm: Waldo, son of the farm's kindly and pious German overseer; Em, the stolid but kind English stepdaughter of Tant' Sannie, the farm's Boer owner; and Lyndall, Em's spirited orphan cousin. As the story follows the friends to adulthood, basic conflicts are enacted both internally and externally. Em's ardent fiancé falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Lyndall, who flouts social pressure to marry. Waldo struggles with his boundless yearning for spiritual fulfillment and for the stimulation that knowledge brings, as well as his need for warm human companionship.
Lyndall's fierce efforts to wrest from the world a life for herself, and the affects her insight and courage have on others, make a gripping tale. This eloquent portrayal of loves damaged by societal repression retains its power more than a century after its first publication. Today's readers will welcome this inexpensive edition of a literary landmark.