The stunning and shocking debut novel from the award-winning author of Maggie & Me. Set in South Africa You Will Be Safe Here explores legacies of abuse, redemption and the strength of the human spirit
South Africa, 1901, the height of the second Boer War. Sarah van der Watt and her son are taken from their farm by force to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp where, the English promise, they will be safe.
Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old outsider Willem just wants to be left alone with his books and his dog. Worried he's not turning out right, his ma and her boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Training Camp. Here they 'make men out of boys'. Guaranteed.
You Will Be Safe Here is a deeply moving novel of two connected parts. Inspired by real events, it uncovers a hidden colonial history and present-day darkness while exploring our capacity for cruelty and kindness.
Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher's Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and Sunday Times Memoir of the Year, and won the Paddy Power Political Books 'Satire' Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award. Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel. Damian Barr lives in Brighton.
Barr's writing has a lightness of touch and warm humour which makes it easy to root for him ... His life has become a triumph * OBSERVER * A searing debut * THE TIMES * A stunning dissection of human barbarism ... It tells a story so powerful and upsetting that it's a wonderful reminder of how fiction can illuminate the indignities visited upon those the world has mistreated and then forgotten -- JOHN BOYNE * IRISH TIMES * This is a book that tilts the world, showing how the actions of the past can never be fully escaped by the present * STYLIST * Packs a hefty emotional punch ... Extraordinary * BIG ISSUE * A poignant debut, written with empathy ... Barr's first novel is distinguished by its compassion, its wisdom and its remarkable sense of poetry * GUARDIAN * The harsh poetry of the land anchors the text, its red earth stretching out beneath starlit stillness, unchanging from generation to generation ... By its end, so many instinctive responses will have been upturned that the reader will be left with just two certainties: that the circularity of man's cruelty to his fellow human beings is endless, and that only kindness is stronger * OBSERVER * A devastating novel about the destruction of childhood which visits a little known part of South Africa's recent shameful history ... Damian writes beautifully and wears his research lightly, in this most affecting of novels -- KIRSTY WARK Completely gripping and profoundly moving - you care for every character. Each of the very different stories is deeply affecting and they're woven together in such unexpected and powerful ways. Barr handles the most difficult material with the lightest touch -- MAGGIE O'FARRELL Damian Barr's fine first novel wears its research lightly and animates two very different eras with impressive skill. The main characters are all convincing and the overarching theme - that people can do monstrous things with the best of intentions - is explored with intelligence and passion * MAIL ON SUNDAY * A gripping, heartbreaking tale of uncomfortable histories and the resilience of love -- GRAHAM NORTON Barr has a keen eye for wincingly evocative detail ... Lyrical * NEW STATESMAN * Brutal, haunting, redemptive and with not an ounce of fat left on it. Beautiful -- JOJO MOYES Eye-opening and meticulously researched -- Emily Rhodes * SPECTATOR * Both a damning indictment of one of the most ignoble periods in British history and a haunting portrait of modern South Africa * METRO * Funny, tender, and heartbreaking ... A gifted storyteller * INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY * Epic ... Immersive, moving, horrifying and beautiful. You will LOVE it -- MARIAN KEYES Skilfully interweaves interlocking stories from the Boer War and contemporary South Africa as it unflinchingly brings the horrors of hidden colonial history into the light of day and shows how hurt seeps down the generations -- Anita Sethi * Scotland on Sunday * This would be an achievement for a third or fourth novel; for a first, it's an astonishing one. Barr's handling of his bravely chosen material - the conjoined shames of British and Afrikaaner history - is deft and the results will haunt you -- PATRICK GALE Devastating and formally ingenious, it traces the paths by which historical grief engenders present violence ... A vitally brave and luminously compassionate book -- GARTH GREENWELL It's rare for a novel to go so deep that you come out of reading it a different person from when you went in. Damian Barr's investigation of a part of South Africa's history the British have been trying to forget for many many years is such a book. It was a very brave book to write, and parts of it call for some courage to read, but nothing more unusual and impressive has appeared for years -- DIANA ATHILL Damian Barr has written a novel concerned with single strain of human history, of how a people are made and unmade and how they go on to make and unmake others, of the stories they tell themselves to allow such things to pass. In so doing he has captured the threads of all of human history. You Will Be Safe Here is as unexpected as it is unsettling, both in the telling and in the way that telling works to reveal hidden trails through the points of light and darkness, such that the reader arrives at the end to stand before a view over one hundred years in the making and says, I see it now -- AMINATTA FORNA You Will Be Safe Here is eviscerating in its rendering of violence and masculinity in South Africa [and] exquisite in its depiction of suffering and love. You will see the world differently after reading this - it speaks so eloquently and compassionately against a world defined by dominance and brute force and the blind repetition of history. It brought me to tears - the beauty of the language, Barr's tenderness with his characters, and the horror that is done in the name of power -- MARGIE ORFORD [Barr] has achieved something remarkable - a powerfully moving tale that weaves dazzlingly between the Boer war and contemporary South Africa -- PICKS FOR 2019 * OBSERVER * Few writers can wind you with a word. But Damian Barr doesn't just do that, he tickles and then floors you, delights only to devastate, within a single phrase -- PATRICK STRUDWICK Damian Barr splits open lost history, sunlit moments of love and all private grief with this novel, a chisel at one end and a telescope at the other. Insightful and compassionate, open-hearted and unblinking, Barr gives us three unforgettable stories in this powerful, groundbreaking book -- AMY BLOOM Wonderful. I finished the book in tears ... [Barr] writes beautifully, emotively and yet cleanly, without pressing any point so hard that it becomes polemic instead of truth -- JESSICA FELLOWES Sweeping yet intimate, heart-breaking yet often very funny ... This book confirms Barr as one of our most brilliant and big-hearted writers -- ALEX PRESTON Brave, compassionate and beautifully written -- FANNY BLAKE A gorgeously written novel * GOOD HOUSEKEEPING * Barr proves that the future has the power to reshape the past. He also reminds us of the effects of time mean people living in the same place can inhabit different worlds ... Time is almost too quaint itself, too neutral a concept if we think about it only in terms of measurement, to properly capture what Barr sets out to achieve. This is a book about time as the accumulation of experience, both personal and collective. Experience is the same as history and history is the things people do. This is a book about the things people do to each other * HERALD *
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