Continuing the legacy of The Color Purple and The Help, Philida is a novel set on the cusp of a historical event: the abolition of slavery in the Cape in 1838.
Philida is a young slave battling against an unjust system and searching for her own identity as that system begins to disintegrate. She is the ultimate heroine of the suppressed; despite the brutal treatment she is forced to suffer at the hands of her master she always stays true to herself. She rises in the face of adversity and Brink celebrates her small personal triumphs which mean so much, crafting a narrative which perfectly captures the struggle of a black slave in a white imperialist society.
But Brink’s novel is far more touching for the fact that the white boss under whom Philida suffers is in fact an ancestor of Brink himself. The reader is taken on a journey into the past: across the farms, plains and rivers of the Cape and deep into the lives of a complex set of characters, exploring racism, sexism and the disruption of traditional gender roles with acute attention to detail.
Philida is one of those rare novels with the ability to pull you into its characters' world entirely. At times the uncensored brutality is disturbing, but it all serves to add to the powerful and honest representation of the reality of life at that point in history. Absolutely gripping from beginning to end, this book is a must-read for this year and a worthy contender for the Man Booker.