Shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year Award
Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.
Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he's turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they 'make men out of boys.' Guaranteed.
The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.
“A gorgeously written novel.”—Good Housekeeping
“Barr proves that the future has the power to reshape the past. He also reminds us of the effects of time mean people living in the same place can inhabit different worlds . . . Time is almost too quaint itself, too neutral a concept if we think about it only in terms of measurement, to properly capture what Barr sets out to achieve. This is a book about time as the accumulation of experience, both personal and collective. Experience is the same as history and history is the things people do. This is a book about the things people do to each other.”—The Herald
“Funny, tender, and heartbreaking . . . A gifted storyteller.”—The Independent
“There is pain on these pages and poetry too. I left this book bruised yet somehow better for it.”—Tayari Jones, The Observer
“Both a damning indictment of one of the most ignoble periods in British history and a haunting portrait of modern South Africa.”—The Metro
“Skillfully interweaves interlocking stories from the Boer War and contemporary South Africa as it unflinchingly brings the horrors of hidden colonial history into the light of day and shows how hurt seeps down the generations.”—Anita Sethi, Scotland on Sunday
“Devastating and formally ingenious, it traces the paths by which historical grief engenders present violence . . . A vitally brave and luminously compassionate book.”—Garth Greenwell
“Damian Barr has written 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
“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. Damian Barr's investigation of a part of South Africa's history the British have been trying to forget for many many years 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
“You Will Be Safe Here is eviscerating in its rendering of violence and masculinity in South Africa [and] exquisite in its depiction of suffering and love. You will see the world differently after reading this—it speaks so eloquently and compassionately against a world defined by dominance and brute force and the blind repetition of history. It brought me to tears—the beauty of the language, Barr's tenderness with his characters, and the horror that is done in the name of power.”—Margie Orford
“This 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
“Sweeping yet intimate, heart-breaking yet often very funny . . . This book confirms Barr as one of our most brilliant and big-hearted writers.”—Alex Preston
“Few writers can wind you with a word. But Damian Barr doesn't just do that, he tickles and then floors you, delights only to devastate, within a single phrase.”—Patrick Strudwick
“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
“Wonderful. I finished the book in tears . . . [Barr] writes beautifully, emotively and yet cleanly, without pressing any point so hard that it becomes polemic instead of truth.”—Jessica Fellowes