Portrait of Stella, Susan Wuthrich

A fake birth certificate! No record of her existence in the UK data base. Jemima Ashton is desperate to discover her real identity. With scant information and the burning question ‘who am I?’, she embarks on an incredible journey of detection. On learning of her late mother Stella’s sudden disappearance during WWII, she retraces her footsteps across the globe and at a distant vineyard, unearths a family she had no idea existed. While treading a path of narrow-minded bigotry, scandalous revelations emerge of two families inextricably linked by one woman and the drastic steps they took to hide the truth.

Reviewer: Amy Madden

The opening chapter was intriguing, referencing Hottentots, a word I was not familiar with and the use of South Africa as a setting for the book. This alone provided a curiosity. I loved the clever use of coincidence in the daughter asking about Hottentots having discussed the topic in school and she wanted to learn more, knowing that at home her family had a book that she could reference.

The use of World War 2 as a backdrop has been used before in many novels but this story had a twist. One of the characters, Chris is South African and is considered Coloured in his country, which is riddled in Apartheid – a separation of black ,coloured and white people; white being at the top of the food chain if you will with regards to freedom. This lasting legacy goes right up to the 1980s where part of the story is set, demonstrating the relaxed attitude towards racism that existed.

This behaviour shocks Jemima, who goes in search of her mothers’ past in order to find her own identity. Coming from Birmingham England, where the population experiences their own problems with regard to racism, she is familiar with it, but not at this level. Jemima finds out that when she was born she was registered as coloured. This causes all manner of problems as to who she is allowed to marry, what area she is allowed to live in and which restaurants she is able to eat in.

Jemima also finds love in the form of a policeman Matt, who does his utmost to help her with her research.

The only real fault I would have to find is that at times the dialogue can read a bit clunky and formal and there is some unnecessary information, which sometimes halted the great story line.

In conclusion I thought it a lovely holiday read and a gripping story.




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