The Story of an African Farm - Olive Schreiner

A video talk

Regarded as one of the first feminist novels, this is the story of three children growing up on a farm in the Karoo, South Africa. We meet them first as children and then as adults. When published in 1883 it immediately attracted controversy for its portrayal of feminism, pre-marital sex and even transvestitism.

Modernist and experimental in style, brave and progressive in its message, this is a patchy and yet intriguing novel. Discover the South Africa of the late 19th century through this book.

“Olive Schreiner, the first and for many years the only, South African writer to win a substantial reputation and readership outside her own country.”
― Dan Jacobson

A brave statement in its time

When The Story of an African Farm came out in 1883, there were hopes that ‘the great South African novelist’ had emerged. Sadly, Olive Schreiner never wrote another really good novel, but she did write feminist and political works that were hugely influential.

Her novel was a brave statement. It explores the position of women in late 19th century South Africa, it paints a picture of the cultural and intellectual deprivation of life on a remote farm in the Karoo, and it even includes a cross-dressing character which was something quite shocking for the time. The book had sold over 100,000 copies by the end of the 19th century and was admired by Oscar Wilde, Gladstone and George Bernard Shaw. It has often been compared to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Writing powerfully about Apartheid

Learn more about the woman behind the book. Olive Schreiner drew heavily from her own childhood in her creation of the book’s heroine Lyndall. Discover how Schreiner fought for better treatment of the Boers and warned about what could happen if there were a Boer War. Enjoy some ‘virtual travel’ to the stunning Karoo landscapes and to her homes which are now museums.

No South African could today write a book which so ignored the position of black South Africans. No major character in her book is black, and yet the novel is a condemnation of white colonialism and the harm that can be done to colonisers and colonised alike. The book inspired others who went on to write powerfully about Apartheid and the tragic outcomes of white settlement in South Africa.

Purchase the complete Video Talk (just $15 AU)

This Video Talk is a real treat! In it, I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. It is illustrated with photographs, paintings, scenes from different film versions and book covers – you’ll have plenty to look at while you listen. Buy it now and receive a link to view your video immediately.

100% guaranteed. If you don’t feel my talk is great value for money, please let me know why and I will refund your purchase price.

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Just $15 AU. Buy it now – you’ll receive access details by return email.

Thank you Susannah, I love learning from you.


Thanks for your lecture series on the 4 English trailblazers, I have now caught up with all four of them. Even though I had a fair bit of prior knowledge of all except Florence Nightingale, I enjoyed your lectures very much, there were so many lovely pictures and unexpected sidelights that I was very well entertained. You really brought out how these four brilliant misfits made a difference to English culture!

I would have loved to have taken part in the actual lectures, but 5 pm on a weekday does not work for me, unfortunately, so I was pleased to be able to catch the lectures later. I look forward to further lectures in the future.


I absolutely love receiving your programs!


I just wanted to thank you for your March Trailblazers series.
Such interesting and diverse lives and the discovery of all those quirky facts gave a full picture of the personalities behind the famous personas.

As the ladies say, “It’s not easy”. What an understatement!


Thank you I thoroughly enjoyed the refresher on Florence. A great woman. Today we would no doubt diagnose her as having a mental illness. In my experience people who are so exceptional, such creative thinkers, so different from their peers as Florence was could be bi-polar. Her debilitating illnesses would have exacerbated this. So much of what I learned as a nurse came directly from her teachings. 
All the stats we continually collected also came from her.


I really enjoyed this talk, Susannah. Today I used notes I took from this Trailblazers series to complete 3 hours of the 100 hours of Professional Learning I must do to be able to continue casual teaching!

I’m sure to use the things I have learned in class. Thank you!

I want to say how much I enjoy and appreciate, Susannah’s Trailblazer presentations.


Bravo Susannah!  You revealed a phenomenal man to us.  Photographic memory!


Thank you so much for a most enjoyable and informative talk last night on Dr Johnson.


Another great and inspiring talk.  Can’t wait to go to the Library to see a copy.


I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation, Susannah!  Brilliant as usual. You do such a marvelous job bringing your subjects to life.


Susannah is a masterful, engaging and passionate presenter who enriches our souls!

Get the book, watch the movie and more

Here is where to buy the books in print, ebook or audio. Find the books on my recommended reading list, watch a movie version, enjoy related videos, websites and much more. Have anything to add here? Let me know.

The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
Olive Schreiner by Ruth First and Ann Scott
Thoughts on South Africa by Olive Schreiner
Outsiders: Five Women Writers who Changed the World by Lyndall Gordon
Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World by Claudia Roth Pierpont

Some free versions are better than others, please feel free to try these, but I cannot guarantee the quality.
The Story of an African Farm – Project Gutenberg by Olive Schreiner Free downloadable version in various formats including Kindle, epub, pdf and others. If you are unsure of how to add these files to your ereader, look here.
The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, narrated by SallyMc.

FIND IN A LIBRARY (You will need to create an account and hold a library card.)
The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner National Library of Australia free public access to books in libraries at Trove.


The Story of an African Farm The Victorian Web
Tant Sannie’s Melktert, Milk Tart Recipe

Discuss it with me

Regarded as one of the first feminist novels, this is the story of three children growing up on a farm in the Karoo. Let’s discuss it here.

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I only recommend books I have read or know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.
Featured image credit- Kasha Kropinski & Anneke Weidemann in The Story of an African Farm, 2004 Rodini Films movie adaptation,

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