Book Review: How the Water Falls

How the Water FallsHow the Water Falls by K.P. Kollenborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I am an avid student of history, I’ll admit that I don’t know much beyond the basics of apartheid-era South Africa. Because of this I jumped at the chance to read How the Water Falls, since I find it is often so enlightening to see the story through a character’s eyes rather than a dry textbook. As I had hoped, Joanne and Lena proved to be fascinating teachers.

How the Water Falls primarily follows Joanne, a white South African of British descent, and Lena, a black South African activist, focusing primarily on their interactions with the Borghost brothers, Hans and Jared, who are Afrikaaners (of Dutch descent) and members of the police force. Joanne writes for a small newspaper, and Lena would love to write,but is prevented by her status and activist record. She is frequently harassed by the police, captained by Hans Borghost. Joanne tries to tell Lena’s story, but is prevented by politics and fear of retribution. I should note, harassment is probably the most polite way of putting it, there is description of violence in this book, and while from what I know it is accurate it is still stomach-turning.

It was a long and winding tale, but How the Water Falls leads to a somewhat gentle conclusion for those who endured such violence. I think this was somewhat evident in the languid writing style, which contrasted with the conflict inherent in the tale. Although the story at points left me wondering as to how it could possibly end in a positive resolution, I think that it did reflect the hope brought by the end of apartheid, without compromising the reality of trying to rebuild a country that endured through such internal strife.

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