Saanich Peninsula author pens novel about South Africa

Caren Powell explores the violence and hope alive in a South Africa moving away from apartheid.

Saanich Peninsula author Caren Powell.

Saanich Peninsula author Caren Powell.

“At the time, says Caren Powell, “everything was changing.”

She is speaking about South Africa where she and her husband Neil lived for 38 years. Powell has vivid memories of the turmoil, violence and uncertainty surrounding massive change in that country as apartheid, its system of racial segregation, was coming to an end.

It’s this time in her life — and how it affected her family, friends and neighbours — that is the basis for her self-published book, The Dark Side of the Rainbow.

“I had so many vivid memories of living in South Africa,” said Powell, who emigrated to Canada with Neil after they decided to leave.

She said there were splits in the communities that were springing up as Africans gained more freedoms — as well as plenty of push back from the predominantly white authorities.

“Many people at that time were stuck in their ways,” she said.

The story is about a family farm, its white owners, black labourers, the strangers and other characters coming in and out of the lives of the protagonists.

While the novel itself is fiction, Powell said the stories are true — they happened during her life in South Africa on her family farm. Only the names have been changed, she explained.

In writing her book, Powell said there were times she would feel angry or sad, adding she relied on Neil to help keep her going. Other times the words would just flow — even in the middle of the night — and she’d have to get them down or lose the ideas completely.

Each chapter in The Dark Side of the Rainbow follows a certain time period in the lives of the characters.

The story, Powell explained, is her attempt at bringing out the differences that occurred at the time — from those living in extreme poverty to the harsh politics of the day and the divisions between black and white.

Powell said the cover of her novel represents the vision of the late Nelson Mandela, who helped lead South Africa through its time of change. While the rainbow is a symbol of hope and freedom, Powell said, there was a lot of darkness before its arrival.

The Dark Side of the Rainbow officially launched in late April. It’s available at Tanner’s Books in Sidney and at and