For the ‘forgotten’


Bot River resident and writer Barbara Townsend launched her first novel, Ida’s Line, to great acclaim recently. The event on 7 November was an informative question-and-answer session led by Annette Yell, former news editor of Theewaterskloof & Cape Agulhas Gazette.

Townsend, a natural storyteller, is passionate about creative writing and literacy.

“I see myself as an educational activist,” she said. “I enjoyed having a lifetime of teaching language to people who never had the chance, people who ‘slipped through the cracks’, who did not have the opportunities that I had.”

Asked about the title of the book, Townsend said: “We all cross lines in our lives – lines that are taboos, lines of discrimination and difference. Ida’s line was one of those that were crossed. She came from a family that was obsessed with the names in the family bible and the heritage passed down through the sons who owned the land, got the money and the name. She had a different line and saw things differently.”

The historical novel Ida’s Line is a labour of love, written over a period of 10 years. “I wrote this for the forgotten people,” Townsend said. “These are the untold stories of the victims of discrimination, people being seen as ‘other’.

“In total there were 14 re-writes of the book before it was ready to be published. Every day I wrote in the quiet morning hours from 04:00 for three hours before the world started coming at me. Copious cups of tea sustained me during this time, and that is also the reason why the imprint of my self-published book is ‘Teapot Publishing’.”

When asked whether there would be a sequel to the book because of the open-endedness, Townsend replied: “No there will not be a sequel. I am, however, writing a second novel about the leper colony and mental asylum at Robben Island set in the years 1908-1909. This book should be available next year.”

Other books by Townsend are the non-fiction Botrivier: The story of a village and children’s books Changing Lives and Journey from Timbuktu.

A brief synopsis of the book: a historical novel set in South Africa between 1930 and 1948, a period of growing fascism and racial hatred for all people not regarded as European, Ida’s Line tells of Ida Joubert, a young woman coming of age in Oudtshoorn, openly rejecting these racist views, challenging the prevailing patriarchal attitudes towards women, which results in constant conflict with her white, middle-class family, especially her father. When Ida plucks up the courage to introduce Reuben May, a teacher of mixed-race origins who wants to marry her to her family, tensions rise. The story continues exploring the conflict of Ida’s love for Reuben and her family.

Ida’s Line can be ordered for R270 through info@teapotpublishing.co.za.

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