When the Ground is Hard

Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760524814
The Book of the Year: Older Readers 2020 Notable
Set in a boarding school in 1960s Swaziland, this novel deftly explores complex structures of race, class and gender. While the setting of a small country in Africa will be foreign to most readers, the power play between teenage girls is universal and recognisable and the added element of a missing boy moves the book into the mystery genre and will be sure to hold the reader’s attention. The setting is evocative, and the author uses rich language to portray an experience of Africa that many readers will not be familiar with. The main character undergoes a significant journey of personal growth and exploration during which she is forced to confront her own prejudices and question the societal structures that navigate her life. Lyrical prose, excellent sense of place, important themes explored with sensitivity and the author’s unique perspective gives us a book with high literary merit and a fresh view of the teenage experience.