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I consider Islands to be the War and Peace of South Africa. I have read War and Peace many times, and am now on my third reading of Dan Sleigh's original Afrikaans version of Eilande. I have not read the English translation.
This epic novel is not a light read and I believe that poor reviews here are written by people who dislike real writing. The historical details packed into the book are accessible and well incorporated into the narrative, and as a South African I find them fascinating and very meaningful. When I was at school we were taught a very sanitized version of our history, with anyone who was not white either left out entirely or cast as the Bad Guys.
Islands changes all that.
What I love especially in rare, classic novels like this one, is that they recreate an era when history is made, through story telling. They bring to life lost landscapes, and I loved reading about Cape Town before it was a developed city.
Every character in the story represents multifaceted aspects of South Africa's early colonial past within the greater context of conflict on the European continent. I recommend this book very highly.