The Angolan Girl, A true-life novel – Telma Rocha


Biographical Fiction

It’s 1975 in Lobito, Angola, where Rosa, Leo, and the children are trapped in their home. Thirteen years of bloodshed delivered Angola’s independence from Portugal. Now, civil war rages on. The Carvalho family has given up hope for peace in their beloved homeland. A plan to build a life in Canada sets into motion. But their journey won’t be easy.

Rosa takes comfort in the knowledge that her life has never been easy. Memories of her childhood spent bouncing between wealth and servitude, longing for a mother she couldn’t know, and a naïve adolescence cut short fuel Rosa’s courage to make good on a promise she made long ago.

After five straight days the gunshots have quieted; the time to flee is now. Which would you choose if memories and a change of clothes were all you could take?

My review

Here is a story that was meant to be told, a story of historical significance, a story of importance for Angolan people, the Carvalho family and generations to follow.

The Angolan Girl follows the life of Rosa. Rosa grows up in a family with her step mother as her main female figure and eventually meets her birth mother. Rosa is a young girl who believes in love and experiences loss at such a young age. Her experiences of love, loss, emotional abuse and family life are all set out in this biographical fiction novel. The story is written by her granddaughter, Telma.

I found this novel to be a very easy read as I followed Rosa’s life. The author manages to write such a complex story and issues in a manner in which is easy for the reader to follow. The writer’s style replicates that of the age in which Rosa is at particular times of the novel. As a young girl Rosa is innocent to what horrors there are in this world and this is reflected by the author’s style of writing, with shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary, filled with heart and meaning. Whereas, Rosa as an adult experiencing the horrors of war and is written from the perspective of an adult. Telma Rocha writes beautifully from a number of perspectives and stages of life. This made it very possible to get lost in the story and feel I was living this life whilst reading each page. It is also evident that this book was written from the heart. I did not want to put the novel down.

Rosa is a strong and kindhearted woman, a woman whose life should be celebrated, which is fitting as we have just celebrated International Women’s Day. I love Rosa and felt her interests as an avid reader and role as a mum were akin to mine. Rosa’s love of reading provided her ‘an escape from this dreadful situation into a new world with no war.’ This was particularly important to Rosa during wartime in Angola. Prior to reading this novel I did not have any knowledge of the war in Angola.

The horrors of war and devastation are discussed in the novel. The importance for families is to escape to a country that provides a peaceful life, instead of one in which people are worried for their own lives and lives if their loved ones daily. This is a story of a family who were happy in their own country until the war. It is a story of a family who had to leave their country and everything known to them behind. A family who left behind their lives and started a new. For the refugees experiencing this pain, loss and fear, I feel for you.

Stories like this should make us realise that now we must care for others and appreciate how lucky we are living in a peaceful place. We are lucky we do not have to hide from gunshots that could fire at us whilst walking out on our own balcony or into the street. We are lucky if we have not seen a mountain of dead bodies or lost loved ones due to war. We should be grateful. We should feel lucky. As Australians we should feel lucky.

Thank you Telma for sharing such a personal and beautiful story and sharing an important part of history that emphasises the importance of peace.

Thank you Telma for providing me with a beautiful signed copy of your novel in exchange for my honest review.