You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr - The Guardian's book of the day

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You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr review – a poignant debut novel

Twin narratives of internment during the second Boer war and a 21st–century training camp, from the author of the memoir Maggie and Me.

Damian Barr’s memoir of growing up as a gay teenager in the 1980s, Maggie and Me, featured the striking image of a place where the sun seemed to set twice. Raised near Motherwell in Scotland, in the shadow of the Ravenscraig steelworks, Barr recalled how the sluicing of the furnaces each evening would send a “bigger, brighter, cleaner light” through the “porridge-coloured curtains” of his council home.

For his debut novel, Barr has chosen a location where the sun barely sets at all. The first part takes the form of a diary written by Sarah van der Watt, the wife of a Boer farmer living in the Orange Free State at the turn of the 20th century. Though she has never left the veldt, Sarah’s head is filled with dreams of European literature. “One day I would like to see the sun set as it does in Europe,” she states. “Here it just disappears like a coin rolling off a table.”

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Damian Barr