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Bridging the Divide: The Story of a…

Bridging the Divide: The Story of a Boer-British Family

by Angela Read Lloyd

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This is a delightful book, meticulously researched and written. It reads easily although so many characters make an appearance. It skillfully draws together the story of the Read family of Johannesburg over a 100 year period. It is a multi-layered family history as it moves through several generations. First published by Jonathan Ball in 2002 my copy is a 2008 revised reprint.

The core of this family history is the story of the marriage of Herbert Read, an English immigrant and businessman involved in mining and forestry in Johannesburg and Lily Visser of the Afrikaans Free State family and farm Lokshoek and hence the title of the book " Bridging the Divide" and the sub -title "the story of a Boer- British family". There were brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, cousins, aunts and uncles and one gets a good sense of the dynamics of a late Victorian / Edwardian extended family who were articulate, interconnected, aspired for better, believed in education. They were interesting people who achieved much, concerned about life around them and who wrote many letters, kept souvenirs of important events and took photographs. There women were fearless , independent and capable.

Angela is the granddaughter of Herbert Read who had the task of clearing "the accumulated clutter of decades of family life" and such was the volume of material that Angela arrived at the decision to tell the story of Lokshoek ( the name of her family home in Annerley Road, Parktown ) and its inhabitants. The skill though in the writing is in relating family events and letters to the wider South African political and economic canvas from the time of the Anglo Boer war ( 1899 - 1902) to the 1980s. The growth of Johannesburg from mining camp to modern city meant that the survival of a grand old family home in Arts and Crafts style in Parktown was unlikely as the motorway sliced through the luxuriant high-veld gardens and the remaining land was eyed covetously by business groups wanting to develop office blocks and office parks. The author draws out her family through their correspondence and conversations, marriages, births deaths and travels. She shows that an affluent family could not and did not stand aside from the great political issues of their day - the relationship of English and Afrikaner , emerging Africana nationalism, the social question of urban migration and housing of black city workers in Sophiatown and Orlando (Soweto), participation by South Africa in the Second World War and "going north" to fight Hitler.

The house and its large ground were scarred by the motorway cutting through and then came the buy out by a large financial company and the house which saw so much of a unique style of colonial life is no longer. What remains today is the pseudo replication of offices meant to look like the preceding arts and crafts Norman Shaw homes. So one experiences a touch of nostalgia. For anyone interested in history of the City this book is worth purchasing. Nonetheless, the book would have been much enhanced by the inclusion of a family tree ; the many photographs are poorly reproduced in black and white , the index lists names only without subjects attached. Nonetheless the book emerges as a labour of love and I enjoyed the read. ( )
  Africansky1 | Jan 27, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0620424338, Paperback)

"When Angela Lloyd opened a leather trunk which she had found in her old family home in Johannesburg, she found a jumble of letters, photographs and documents covering a time span of well over a century. There was a package of pictures dating from the Jameson Raid, and a sheaf of telegrams from the Anglo-Boer War. The end result of this discovery is a remarkable family saga, and [an] enthralling essay in South African social history from the late 19th century to the present day. Angela Read Lloyd's skillfully crafted memoir deserves a wide readership. Her use ... of contemporary letters and photographs gives this book a quality of immediacy. It is a beguiling picture of white South African lives as they were lived in what now seems another world." - Cape Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:54 -0400)

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