Ladysmith

Ladysmith In the dying days of the th century the world s eyes turned to the small South African town of Ladysmith whose inhabitants spent days besieged by Boer forces while waiting for General Buller s

  • Title: Ladysmith
  • Author: Giles Foden
  • ISBN: 9780375409202
  • Page: 475
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In the dying days of the 19th century, the world s eyes turned to the small South African town of Ladysmith, whose inhabitants spent 118 days besieged by Boer forces while waiting for General Buller s army Giles Foden tells his tale through a host of characters There s the Irish hotelier Leo Kiernan and his daughters, Bella and Jane the barber Antonio Torres, from PortuIn the dying days of the 19th century, the world s eyes turned to the small South African town of Ladysmith, whose inhabitants spent 118 days besieged by Boer forces while waiting for General Buller s army Giles Foden tells his tale through a host of characters There s the Irish hotelier Leo Kiernan and his daughters, Bella and Jane the barber Antonio Torres, from Portuguese East Africa the various British war correspondents, including a young Winston Churchill the Indian stretcher bearers, among them Mohandas Gandhi a Zulu named Muhle Maseku, his wife, Nandi, and their son, Wellington and two young English soldiers, Tom and Perry Barnes, whose letters home in which straightforward description approaches the surreal were inspired by those of Foden s great grandfather Early on, Perry and his fellows capture one woman hiding in a farmhouse When we got to her, she was crouched in a shed with her arms round a goose Seeing us approach, she buried her head in its feathers and started crying As we surrounded her, she kept repeating something in Dutch An African scout who spoke the language said what she was saying was Leave me my man goose Do not take my man goose Do not hurt my man goose We had to take her in of course, but we let her keep the goose As she was a farmer, I felt sorry for her, but they have plenty of our fellows in Pretoria, so there Ladysmith is a busy book, and it s not always clear what s going on But that s Foden s point At heart it is a novel about the writing of history, set on the verge of modernity, where old ways of assessing the truth are being cruelly questioned So correspondent George Steevens still reads his Greek historians and Gibbons, while his messages are being sent and censored by the newfangled heliograph Sieges are out of date, Steevens realizes To the man of 1899 with five editions of the evening papers every day, a siege is a thousandfold a hardship We make it a grievance nowadays if we are a day behind the news news that concerns us not at all With such pressures to provide news, news, news, it s no surprise when the correspondents end up producing the Ladysmith Lyre, full of fake news And on the margins, there s the unnamed Biographer, eschewing words in favor of visual images with his Biograph, but soon finding that he too can t tell the whole story In its considerable range and ambition Churchill and Gandhi s encounter prefiguring events of the 1940s, Bella s personal rebellion standing in for the advance of women, the place of Ireland in Britain s colonial plans, Wellington s experiences informing his work with the ANC Ladysmith sometimes falls short But in his battle scenes and evocation of the town s drawn out suffering, Foden is very good, producing some startling images the town s mockingbirds, for instance, take to imitating the whine and buzz of shells This is never anything less than a fascinating, ambitious novel, and to see a young author taking on the huge question of how to write history is inspiring indeed Alan Stewart

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    One thought on “Ladysmith

    1. Steve

      Mid 5. The seige and defence of Ladysmith was of momentous import to the preservation of the ideals which underpinned the British Empire, amidst a conflict which brutally exposed the outdated approach of the Crown's forces. Set in 1899, this novel brilliantly evokes the suffering of the beseiged as they await the relief column which is pinned down by Boer forces en route. Many reviewers appear to regard the multitude of characters confusing and revealing a lack of depth of characterisation, but [...]

    2. Lily

      Ladysmith suffers from a complete lack of subtlety, both in the heavy-handed characterizations and the predictable relationships and plot. It earns its two stars for a.)the descriptions of siege conditions, which are horrifying and vivid, and b.)being engaging enough a read, if unsubstantial.

    3. D

      I wouldn't recommend Ladysmith. I found the lead up to the siege enjoyable. I enjoyed bouncing between narrators But a siege is boring and claustrophobic by its nature and therefore isn't particularly enjoyable to read about. The dialogue and characters are stilted. The plot is predictable. The novel is at its best when cycling through different characters and at its worst towards the end when it stalls on the main character and her romantic interests. Fodor also imposes modern attitudes on 19th [...]

    4. Dana Jennings

      I started from a place of ignorance, knowing little about the Boer war in South Africa and so struggled to get traction with the story at the outset. Based in part on the letters of Foden's great-grandfather, a British trooper, the story is stunning and tender, romantic and tragic. Foden describes the conflict of 1899 from the voice of different recurring characters, a number of whom are nonfictional including Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi and the renown British journalist, Henry Nevenison. [...]

    5. Suzanne

      A chilling account of the Boer War Siege that narrates the horrors, heartbreak, courage, and choices made when a cataclysmic event occurs. Not for the feint of heart who wish a happy tale. It poses the eternal question of what is goodness or normalcy for survival in the face of catastrophe and chaos. Three cups of tea, straight and strong, no sugar or cream.

    6. Peter Nowakowski

      this book was never boring and never exctining but easy to read and the end turned out to be very very good so i was a little surprised at how much i liked it.

    7. Eugene Lakinsky

      Ледісміт - англомовне містечко у Південній Африці. У 1899, під час Англо-бурської війни, його оточили бурські війська і почали обстрілювати шрапнеллю з найсучасніших (на той час) гармат. Але місто витримало 3 місяці осади і так і не здалося.Про це можна було б написати примітив [...]

    8. Babak Fakhamzadeh

      Foden's second outing is not as enthralling as his first, the award winning The Last King of Scotland, but still a very interesting read. Set during the siege of Ladysmith, around the turn of the previous century, when the Boers, fighting the British aggressors, managed for almost four months, to squeeze the town nearly dry. The story, historical fiction, is roughly based on a series of letters from his great-grandfather which Foden accidentally stumbled upon. Whereas Foden, in The Last King of [...]

    9. Dick Gullickson

      Giles Foden does a masterful job of illuminating the foundation of South Africa by telling the story of the siege of the British Army at Ladysmith by the Boers in the Anglo-Boer war in 1899. Towns people, British soldiers, war correspondents, native Africans, and Boer family prisoners were surrounded and besieged by the Boer army for 118 days while a British column sent to the rescue struggled. Based on the letters home written by Foden's grandfather, "Ladysmith" does a capable job of telling ev [...]

    10. Andrew

      This book tells the story of the siege of Ladysmith during the Boer war. I found the book quite slow and laborious to start off with, but after a bit of perseverance things do start to pick up. Following several different characters, the reader gets a good impression of what life was like during the siege; it was pretty grim for natives, colonists and soldiers alike. However because of the flitting back and forth between characters, it is hard to feel any particular connection to any of them. Wh [...]

    11. Sue

      This is a fictionalized account of the actual siege of the town of Ladysmith from Nov 1899 to Feb 1900. I enjoy historical fiction partly because it gives me an opportunity to learn something in an enjoyable way. This did not meet that wish, however. I had a very hard time following it from the start - each chapter seemed to introduce new individuals with no sense of how they relate to those already part of the story. I get the idea that the residents were trying to make the best of the situatio [...]

    12. Alistair

      i enjoyed this story about the siege of ladysmith in the Boer war but in all honesty it is not great literature with the writer trying to get too many angles into the novel a bit of adventure , a bit of politics with ghandi and churchill making cameo appearances , a bit of love and slap and tickle , a few noble natives , and a bit of cruelty . the horror of the siege is well described but the characters do not come to life and are flat passed a few hours easily on a long flight .

    13. Effie

      Interesting book by the author of the better known "The Last King of Scotland." I enjoyed learning about this episode of South Africa history and appreciated how he was able to tell the story from various perspectives.

    14. Yvonne

      Foden really brings the reality of the siege to life - the conditions, the action, drama, suffering, personal conflicts. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I agree with The Times critic: It is at once a good adventure and a fascinating account of an historical period.

    15. Marissa

      I loved Foden's Last King of Scotland so my expectations were a bit high. Interesting time period to learn about but I found the narrative difficult to follow so it wasn't the smoothest or most enjoyable read for me.

    16. Ryan Williams

      Almost in the same league as The Siege of Krishnapur. Look up Foden’s first book - The Last King of Scotland - as well.

    17. Andrée

      Great fictional account of an historical event. Full of horribly realistic detail. Can.t wait for the film version. Recommended

    18. Karen Spach

      This book is by the same author as Last King of Scotland. I really enjoyed learning about that time period. It was not a typical love story as described on the back cover.

    19. David

      Read on the back of reading another of his books . . . I really enjoyed this factional story of a siege that i knew little or nothing about.

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