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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Saul Barnard is a man with a self-imposed mission - to halt the wanton destruction of the Knysna Forest, home of wild elephants and the fiercely independent families of woodcutters. For years he has protected the forest from intruders, and has developed a mystical kinship with the spirit of Old Foot, the majestic and indomitable bull elephant. When word goes round that Old Foot is on the rampage, Saul is propelled towards a terrible confrontation that will change his future for ever.…

Circles in a Forest

by Dalene Matthee

Overall Book Review:

Circles in a Forest is a South Africa classic that is commonly required reading in high schools there.  It is rich in themes ranging from environmental to class conflict.  It follows the life of Saul Barnard–alternating from current events to flashbacks of Saul’s life–showing his transformation from a poor woodcutter’s son into a rugged individual who constantly struggles to step out of the life society tries to define for him and who loves the forests of Africa.  It takes a small bit of reader investment to slip into the meter of the writing, but it is quite a gratifying narrative with plenty of food for thought.

This is a title that is a bit difficult to get a hold of in the United States, but the reader will find it well worth the effort.  Like all classics, it provides good discussion material for a book club.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  8 religious exclamations; 14 mild obscenities; 13 derogatory names; 2 scatological words.

Violence/Gore:  Report of an elephant hunt with some details and blood mentioned; character bleeds from an injury; death of family members from illness; animals chase characters with intent to harm; many reports of killing of elephants for ivory; teenage character skins an animal, axes head open looking for gall, and eats brain raw, some brief description; report that an animal killed a boy in violent manner; shooting of animals s heard; threat at gunpoint; death from an injury character punches another; character fights with no details; report that a parent was killed in an accident; report of death from exposure; verbal threats; character shoots at the feet of another; animal is shot and character comes upon the body.

Sex/Nudity:  Boy notices a girl; characters embrace; characters kiss; touching of face; holding hands; innuendo.

Mature Subject Matter:

Poverty, economic disparity, poaching, discrimination/prejudice, class conflict, environmental destruction, death of family members.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adult smokes pipe; reference to adults drinking.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!