Shortlisted for the Saltire Society Literary Awards
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR
An extraordinary debut that explores legacies of abuse, redemption, and the strength of the human spirit--from the Boer Wars in South Africa to brutal wilderness camps for teenage boys.
South Africa, 1901. It is the height of the second Boer War. Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred are forced from their home on Mulberry Farm. As the polite invaders welcome them to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp they promise Sarah and Fred that they will be safe there.
2014. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider. Hoping he will become the man she wants him to be, his Ma and her boyfriend force Willem to attend the New Dawn Safari Training Camp where they are proud to make men out of boys. They promise that he will be safe there.
You Will Be Safe Here is a powerful and urgent novel of two connected South African stories. Inspired by real events, it uncovers a hidden colonial history, reveals a dark contemporary secret, and explores the legacy of violence and our will to survive.
About the Author
Damian Barr is the author of the memoir Maggie & Me, which the Sunday Times named Memoir of the Year. He is Literary Ambassador for the Savoy in London where he hosts his Literary Salon (also carried as a podcast on British Airways and recently featured in Vanity Fair). He is Literary Editor of the Soho House group and appears regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was 2013's Stonewall Writer of the Year. He lives in Brighton, England.
"There is pain on these pages and poetry too. I left this book bruised yet somehow better for it." - Tayari Jones, author of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, Observer Books of the Year
“Remarkable-a powerfully moving tale that weaves dazzlingly between the Boer war and contemporary South Africa.” —The Observer
“Damian Barr splits open lost history, sunlit moments of love and all private grief with this novel, a chisel at one end and a telescope at the other. Insightful and compassionate, open-hearted and unblinking, Barr gives us three unforgettable stories in this powerful, groundbreaking book.” —Amy Bloom, author of WHITE HOUSES
“Devastating and formally ingenious, it traces the paths by which historical grief engenders present violence . . . A vitally brave and luminously compassionate book.” —Garth Greenwell, author of WHAT BELONGS TO YOU
“Completely gripping and profoundly moving--you care for every character. Each of the very different stories is deeply affecting and they're woven together in such unexpected and powerful ways. Barr handles the most difficult material with the lightest touch.” —Maggie O'Farell, author of I AM, I AM, I AM
“Brutal, haunting, redemptive and with not an ounce of fat left on it. Beautiful.” —Jojo Moyes, author of ME BEFORE YOU, via Twitter
“A novel concerned with single strain of human history, of how a people are made and unmade and how they go on to make and unmake others, of the stories they tell themselves to allow such things to pass. In so doing he has captured the threads of all of human history. You Will Be Safe Here is as unexpected as it is unsettling, both in the telling and in the way that telling works to reveal hidden trails through the points of light and darkness, such that the reader arrives at the end to stand before a view over one hundred years in the making and says, I see it now.” —Aminatta Forna, author of HAPPINESS
“It's rare for a novel to go so deep that you come out of reading it a different person from when you went in. This is such a book. It was a very brave book to write, and parts of it call for some courage to read, but nothing more unusual and impressive has appeared for years.” —Diana Athill, author of SOMEWHERE TOWARDS THE END
“I cannot call to mind a more assured debut novel. Rooted in meticulous research, YOU WILL BE SAFE HERE is an absolutely vital book, one both deeply compassionate and beautifully observed. Its exploration of the sins of the past, long since covered up, sheds an important light on the impact they continue to have on the present.” —Ryan Gattis, author of ALL INVOLVED
“You Will Be Safe Here would be an achievement for a third or fourth novel; for a first, it's an astonishing one. Barr's handling of his bravely chosen material-the conjoined shames of British and Afrikaaner history-is deft and the results will haunt you.” —Patrick Gale, author of A PLACE CALLED WINTER
“Barr's promising debut is an unblinking look at the terrors humankind can perpetrate to squash the 'other.' As hard-hitting as the acts of violence are, more insidious is the evil that seeps into the system that aids and abets atrocities” —Booklist