Queen of the Free State by Jennifer Friedman
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This charming and evocative memoir describes the life of Jennifer Anne – so called to pay tribute to “Our queen’s little princess, Anne” – in Hennenman, Free State.
Friedman brings us directly into her world as the book opens with memories of her mother, who wore tweed and brooches as the queen of England did. But for Jennifer, the colours of the tweed remind her of the veld on her grandpa’s farm, the blue flecks of fountain and the hills’ rusty red.
At once a poignant and amusing tale of childhood memories and family idiosyncrasies, the book also documents with the lightest of touches what it was like to grow up in a Jewish family in the 1960s in rural South Africa.
Across the road lives Nellie, who allows Jennifer in to see the Christmas tree, although Nellie’s granny has forbidden it because she’s not a “true believer and not Afrikaans”, but the children take no notice. Jennifer eventually starts Sub A fluent in Afrikaans, which is the medium of the school. But