The Little Universe

Raaf’s life is falling apart. Not only have she and her mum suddenly had to move to a dingy caravan on the ‘Little Universe’ campsite, she’s also been suspended from school. Raaf is worried. And where is her dad? According to Raaf’s tightlipped mum, he’s having ‘holdups’ at the tow-truck job for which he was recently recruited by a shady character. Raaf doesn’t believe a word of it.

Children's books
Annejan Mieras

Mieras skilfully makes the undercurrent of tension between the mother and the daughter palpable. She vividly portrays the dreary campsite, which resembles ‘a ghost town’, depicting it cinematically as a little universe in its own right. It turns out that Raaf isn’t the only one at the campsite who’s feeling lost and lonely. Nicolaas, the campsite manager’s grumpy son, is struggling with his own loss. He sits in his hidden treehouse, staring through his telescope into the infinite universe — clinging to his mum’s maxim that ‘the sun in the middle holds everything together’ — in an attempt to understand how things are interconnected: ‘I didn’t know I could think that far.’

Mieras beautifully makes the emptiness of the universe that Nicolaas talks about converge with ‘the hollow feeling’ that’s troubling Raaf, and a friendship grows between the two of them. Meanwhile, little by little, between the lines of sparkling, humorous dialogue, she reveals the secrets of both Raaf’s dad and Nicolaas in a story that builds to a surprising and powerful conclusion.

Annejan Mieras
Annejan Mieras (b. 1965) is an architect by training, but found herself unsuited to the profession, and so chose to go into primary education. She has been teaching for over ten years now. Since her 2018 debut, 'Portiek Zeezicht', she has also been a writer.
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