This book is the 2nd in the Courtney's series, set in South Africa in 1899. Sean Courtney, following his escapades in the first installment, When the Lion Feeds, is on his own in the wilderness in the heart of a savage continent. He has managed to increase his fortune after leaving home with next to nothing following his estrangement from his very wealthy father. Unfortunately, history and war intervenes and Sean finds himself caught in the midst of the Boer War.
The war goes back hundreds of years when the English and the Dutch both decided that South Africa belonged to them both, The English because they were empire builders, and the Dutch, or as they became to be called, the Boers, because their religion told them God gave them the land for their own. Caught between these two very strong and antagonistic sides are the native african tribes, slowly being decimated by war, disease and slavery.
There is a deep and abiding hatred between Sean and his brother Garrick and when Sean returns from the bush, he is conscripted into the English forces and placed under his brothers command. As usual where Sean is involved, there is also a woman and of course there is trouble.
Vivid battle action portrayed with the the detail and research that Wilbur Smith has honed to an art form, deep character development and total immersion into the struggeling development of a new nation torn inside and out makes this quite a read.
The most compelling thing I find in reading this series of Wilbur Smiths books (there are 11 at this time) is the slow but very focused destruction of the native African's history, culture and people as a whole. For some reason that I have yet to understand, the white man has a tendency to move in and take over anything and everything he can get his hands on, regardless of the value of the indigenous peoples who just happend to be there first. What happens in South Africa, as you will see as we follow this family, is that the idea or Apartheid started back in the 1600's and lasted thru the end of the 20th century.
Reading Wilbur Smith and this series, as well as the rest of his books, gives significant insight into a story line that covers centuries and brings us from war and opression to freedom. Gold, diamonds, ivory, big game and men, both black and white are the heroes and villians in this piece. And if you have the staying power and the stomach for a reality check into the horrors men inflict, these books may just change your mind about some things you thought you knew, but really didn't.
Mr. Smith has lived in South Africa since he was born there in 1933. This is not a made up history of a nation - it is fact. Like it or not, it happened.
Title: The Sound of Thunder