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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Friday, June 21, 2013

it grew on me!

Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener

It took a while for me to get into Daughter of the Sky. Mainly I think I balked at the shipwrecked child off the coast of South Africa theme (shades of Tarzan). I freely admit that I was sceptical at first.
The thrust of the story is really the Anglo-Zulu war of 1878.
The vehicles for the unfolding of that event are Elizabeth Jones, the rescued child now 20, Lindani her rescuer and Zulu brother, and the English officer Captain Jack Burdell.
Basically, Elizabeth (Little Bird), a shipwrecked child grows up within another culture (Zulu) and does what she can to fight on their side against the oppressive imperialists (The British).  Diener says that the ship wrecked child occurrence was based upon a factual case that happened further to the south of where the events of the novel take place. The description of Elizabeth's rescue is actually quite taking.      
Diener's credentials as an historian and having grown up in this area of South Africa gives credence to her well crafted weaving of the events of the times throughout the story.
In fact her ending Author's note is fascinating to read in relation to the War and the 24th Battalion. Her Bibliography is impressive.
Captain Jack Burdell is an intriguing character. He is not happy about what his life has become and he reflects that, 'All he had left was the oath he had sworn to fight and obey orders.' 
A journal, really a lengthy personal letter to Jack from his father, telling of his father's military career in India fighting the Sikh War is a revelation to Jack. It closely follows Jack's thoughts about imperialistic wars and the arrogance of the English as he's seen it in South Africa. His father writes about in the Sikh War, the British being fooled by superior cunning and tactics. Those events parallel what is happening here in South Africa.  The 24th Battalion took part in both events. This is an amazing piece of historical synchronicity.
The love story of Jack and Elizabeth is poignant . The relationship between Elizabeth and her Zulu brother is wonderful.
Despite my early misgivings, I was fascinated by this story and its historical blending.

A NetGalley ARC

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