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 $9)

At just $9 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.

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Just $9. Buy it now – you’ll receive access details by return email.

Thank you for your most interesting and informative talk about Victor Hugo. It has stimulated me to get to the library and borrow one of his novels when I can of course. 


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We simply loved last night’s talk, we were listening intently and making notes of new places to visit once “it’s all over.” 

Geraldine and Richard

Your talk on Victor Hugo was – as expected – brilliant. Yes, his house on Guernsey is extraordinary (I was there in 2015).


I enjoyed your talk on Victor Hugo very much, especially as I have been to his house in Place des Vosges, which I found remarkable. I had booked a trip to visit the house in the Channel Islands but Covid intervened.


Thank you very much for your Zoom meeting on Victor Hugo yesterday. As is always the case, your presentation was excellent and I much enjoyed being enlightened further on his works and his life.

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Thank you for your wonderful talk yesterday. My friend Jan who watched with me said “now I know why you go on those trips”.


Congratulations on the superb presentation about Victor Hugo last night. Your research was extensive – I learned such a lot (the beginning of serving lunches at school) and, like your 300 plus viewers, found it a very pleasant way to spend an early evening at home with a glass of wine.


Absolutely enjoyed lasts night’s talk on Victor Hugo while I sipped a G&T in the warmth of my home. As usual, learned a lot, so thank you. Another rascally genius. 


I was amazed when we visited his house as to how luxurious (if rather bad taste) it was in contrast to his humanistic writings.

He wrote some very touching poetry about very poor Brittany fisherman besides toilers of the sea.

Such a remarkable life
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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