The novel details the lives of three characters, first as children and then as adults - Waldo, Em and Lyndall - who live on a farm in the Karoo region of South Africa. The story is set in the middle- to late Nineteenth century - the First Boer War is alluded to, but not mentioned by name. The book is semi-autobiographical: in particular, the two principal protagonists (Waldo and Lyndall) display strong similarities to Schreiner's life and philosophy. The book was first published in 1883 in London, under the pseudonym Ralph Iron. It quickly became a best-seller, despite causing some controversy over its frank portrayal of freethought, feminism, premarital sex and pregnancy out of wedlock and transvestitism.
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