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JAMES A. MICHENER'S COVENANT

The Secret History of a Bestseller

How a Boer girl's story inspired James A. Michener's work

In a letter dealing with the Boer War chapter in The Covenant, James Michener wrote:

“Johanna van Doorn, born 1880, is becoming a powerful character and will be focal in Chapter XIII (first draft chapter number). That was your idea, not mine, and a very good one."

My mother, Hester Johanna Maria "Joey" Uys, who was seven when the war broke out, inspired Johanna's role. Long before I met Michener, I interviewed Joey about her experiences in the war, especially her internment in Bethulie Concentration Camp from 1900 to 1902.

Two pages from my notes of those long chats with Joey give a good idea of what she endured.


Boer  War interviews  - Hester Johanna Maria Uys -
Boer War interviews - Hester Johanna Maria Uys - "Joey"
Boer War interviews - Hester Johanna Maria Uys -
Boer War interviews - Hester Johanna Maria Uys - "Joey" - Page 2
Hester Johanna Maria Uys,
Hester Johanna Maria Uys, aged 4, mother of Errol Lincoln Uys 
CLICK TO READ  Joey's story:  A Boer Girl's Memories of the War

A true picture of the Boers on the eve of the war in South Africa 

The following example of my work on The Venloo Commando in the Boer War chapter is from the opening section, where I wrote a new introduction to capture the atmosphere on the eve of the conflagration between the Afrikaner republics and the British Empire.

The first set of pages is from Michener's orginal draft with my comments.

Second group of pages comprise my drafts for the section.

The excerpt from The Covenant shows the final copy, as published in Michener's boook.

The Covenant, James Michener, first draft for Boer war commando story, Page 1
James Michener, first draft for Boer war commando story in The Covenant  READ MORE PAGES
Errol Lincoln Uys, original draft for Venloo commando story in Michener's novel, Covenant
Errol Lincoln Uys, original draft for Venloo commando story in Michener's novel, The Covenant READ MORE PAGES
The story of the Venloo commando in Michener's South African novel, The Covenant
The story of the Venloo commando in Michener's South African novel, The Covenant READ MORE PAGES

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