Damian Barr, who achieved some notoriety with his autobiography Maggie & Me, now turns his hand to fiction. His debut novel focuses on mothers and sons living through two periods in South African history. In the first half of the book, we read the war diaries of Sarah van der Watt, an Afrikaner woman in 1901 whose husband is out on commando, fighting the British. Sarah and her son, Fred, are both evicted from their farm by British soldiers and forced to live in a concentration camp. The second half of the book focuses on Irma, who gives birth to her son, Willem, on 27 April 1994. He is a literal “freedom” baby, but he is quite a gentle soul growing up in a tough society. At the behest of his nasty stepfather, who thinks all men should be more macho, Willem is sent to a training camp for boys, to toughen him up. Both halves of this novel were inspired by real events, and British author Barr certainly did an excellent job researching and writing the South African experience. The overarching theme here is that it is no easy thing to be a woman or a child in this world of ours.