This is a story about honesty, the accurate portrayal of a people: their bravery, selflessness, adventurism; their petty internal jealousies and their high minded failings. It is, to my mind, the greatest of all novels set in Africa. Set during the great trek, it has parallels and lessons for all races – European, American, or Chinese – who consider expansion as part of their foreign policy obligations. There are no easy answers in this novel, no trite, saccharine endings. This is a story about a full chested people trying to survive in a brutally beautiful but unforgiving land.
One cannot help but admire Cloete, himself a Boer, and imagine the pain he must have felt when he plotted this story. In a word, this work is a masterpiece.
Turning Wheels by Stuart Cloete, Collins, 1937 (other editions now available)