A Woman in a Man's World
Spanning seventy years, this charismatic autobiography chronicles the rags-to-riches story of a woman determined to succeed in a male dominated world of business. Set in Southern Africa against the back drop of a world war, the savage Rhodesian bush war and turbulent political change, it is a story of raw courage, of disaster and danger, liberally spiced with humour, interesting people and animals More
This is the amazing autobiography of a South African woman who grew up between the tumultuous events of two world wars. The epic story of a young woman who, finding herself alone with her two small children after the tragic death of her husband, sets out on a voyage into the unknown. A journey that will take her from the dizzy heights of entrepreneurial success in a male dominated world to life’s devastating blows that that lurk unseen in her future.
On a human level which readily commands empathy, the author describes the growing pains, triumphs and tribulations of her formative and later years.
Born into an upper middle class bilingual Afrikaans family, Clem’s mother holds austere pre-Victorian values and actively cultivates an aura of Calvinistic Puritanism. Relationships with boys are taboo. Her father, a veteran of the Anglo-Boer War, is a gentler, loving parent who Clem adores. Both parents encourage her to take an active role in the world of music and poetry, a factor, ironically, which will lead to Clem’s marriage to Sydney; also to a lifelong love affair with music.
After falling in love with a dashing young fighter pilot, Clem’s first serious romance is shattered by the chance discovery that her beau has secretly become engaged to another girl. Stunned, Clem withdraws into herself.
Having previously relinquished a hard earned high school scholarship to support her family after the economic devastation of the Great Recession, Clem is now more than ever motivated to succeed. She throws herself into her studies, working days to support her family, attending classes at night.
Then, after an unexpected and fleeting romance with Sydney, Clem agrees to marry him on her eighteenth birthday, just weeks before his return to war in the western desert.
On Syd’s homecoming more than two years later the couple discovers that they have become strangers. Electing to “head north” to seek better fortune in Rhodesia (current day Zimbabwe), they emigrate with their baby daughter. Just when all seems to be going well at last, Syd, aged just 39, unexpectedly suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving Clem alone with their daughter and six month old son.
Although utterly shattered, Clem refuses to stay on the mat. She is determined to make a better lifestyle for herself and her children. Notwithstanding a disastrous second marriage to a man who failed to disclose a sexual preference for his own gender, Clem finds her feet in the complex and sometimes murky world of commerce.
In spite of seemingly insuperable odds in a domain in which she is told by male peers that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, Clem clears all the hurdles: Not the least of which an attempt to bring her to her knees by a contemporary industry giant. Going on to forge a small empire from her newly founded garage, car hire and tour business, Clem becomes the first female Fellow of the Institute of Directors.
Life, of course, is never simple. In spite of Clem’s boardroom prowess and eventual marital bliss to one of South Africa’s former wartime fighter aces -with whom she carves out of the bush one of the most beautiful small estates in southern Africa- a new war raises its ugly head. The surge of nationalism with communist backed terrorists finds Clem along with many others living in continual fear of attack, a revolver strapped almost permanently to her waist.
This is the story of a woman’s courage and determination against the odds. A tale of tragedy and triumph: of laughter and humour, danger and disaster; of decades of community service and the narrow survival of a nursing home for the aged; of deadly snakes adroitly dispatched with the author’s shotgun; of beloved people and animals that come and go, leaving inconsolable voids in their wake.
It’s a story of an attack by armed thugs in which, though severely pistol whipped and injured, Clem escapes death by feigning it.
And then there is the “night of the elephants”.
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