Author: Wilbur Smith
Title: When the lion feeds
Available at: Amazon, Audible and Goodreads.
Rating: 4 of 5
Family Friendliness: 1 of 5
“‘Something always dies when the lion feeds and yet there is meat for those that follow him.’ The lion is Sean, hero of this tremendous drama of the men who took possession of South Africa in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Sean and his twin-brother Garrick grew up on their father’s farm in Natal. The first part of the book deals with his childhood and youth and his longing to become a successful farmer and hard-hitting fighter like his father.
The tough life of cattle-farming is brusquely interrupted by the Zulu Wars, when Sean and his brother see fighting for the first time. Wilbur Smith vividly recreates the excitement of the war for the young men-their hope of winning their own cattle, the horror of the massacre at Isandhlwana, the heroism of the defence at Rorkes Drift.
‘Witwatersrand’ is the name of the second part of this book and it tells the story of Sean’s fabulous success in the gold rush and his rich life with Duff Charleywood and the beautiful Candy in the new town of Johannesburg, where huge fortunes were made and lost in a morning’s dealing on the Exchange.
The atmosphere of this feverish, violent time is brilliantly drawn: the heavy drinking, the elaborate houses, the ruthless abandonment of the failure. Sean and Duff are caught at last in a trap laid by their rival, the sinister and clever Hradsky, and leave Johannesburg for the wilderness to seek their fortunes once more.
And now the book moves to its climax. At last it seems as though Sean will settle to a quiet married life – but fate has other plans for him. They return to Johannesburg and tragedy strikes quickly. Sean finds himself alone once more…
Filled with action scenes in war and the early heady days of the gold rush, and adventure among the vast game herds of the African wilderness, this novel is dominated by the towering compelling personality of Sean, whose life story is continued in The Sound of Thunder and A Sparrow Falls.”
Having grown up in Natal, South Africa, I had a special appreciation for this book. Although I grew up in a much different era than Sean, a lot of the scenery has not changed much over the years, and so I enjoyed all of the descriptive writing. This is also the first book that I’ve ever read by author Wilbur Smith. At times it was rather exciting, with a lot of action and intrigue going on. I was amazed at how well Wilbur Smith was able to characterize all the different people and stay true to their natures. The book is definitely driven by characterization, and so I’ve been able to learn a lot by how Wilbur Smith writes and how his characters come to live. To the point where one can almost laugh and cry along with them. At times though, the story dragged on for to long harping on one point or another, or seemingly took a tangent to the main story line of Sean. Only in the middle to later, did the story solely focus on Sean, and I enjoyed that tremendously. It got rather boring, whenever the book focused on secondary characters whom I really did not care much for. This book is clearly intended for a mature audience. Most kids and even teens will not enjoy this book.