Pitching Whitewashed Jacarandas

The Outhouse. On night time visits, before venturing in , one had to do a clean sweep with a torch to check for daddy long-leg spiders and snakes of various sorts.
The Outhouse. On night time visits, before venturing in , one had to do a clean sweep with a torch to check for daddy long-leg spiders and snakes of various sorts.
The Outhouse commonly known as the P.K.
On night time visits, before venturing in , one had to do a clean sweep with a torch to check for daddy long-leg spiders and snakes of various sorts.

Pitching Whitewashed Jacarandas

An African Outpost, a Royal Visit and the Pursuit of Progress.

Goucher, a small liberal arts college in Maryland, is scrapping the standard college application in favor of a two-minute video made on a smart phone.  Though the idea sounds revolutionary, literary agents at writer’s conferences have long used the two-minute pitch as the crux of decision making in finding new authors with a fresh story to tell:

Whitewashed Jacarandas a 99,000 word novel is based on true events.

Forbidden marriage during WWII means Doctor Sunny Rubenstein and his Gentile wife, Mavourneen, know they only have each other. Demobbed, brilliant and self-confident he nevertheless discovers posts are hard to find.  But finally, armed with his Zeiss microscope, a set of surgical and dental instruments and medical books crammed into the boot of his camouflage green army Ford (issued in lieu of a resettlement allowance) they leave South Africa with Apartheid on the horizon in the rear view mirror.   Ahead is his 51st prospect in the heart of Southern Rhodesia and a rich gold mine attached to the smallest municipality in the world, Umzimtuti.

The big draw for him is the free rein he’ll have in the New Government Hospital theatre and for Mavourneen and small son, Douglas, is liberation from their dingy Pretoria flat to the joy of a free sprawling garden and house with an indoor toilet−the only one in town.

Sunny’s days start at sunrise with Sick Parade of the African mine workers under a jacaranda tree.  Morning surgery and consultations give way to distant clinics, then calls to remote farms and mud huts, getting home after everyone’s lights are out.  

He realizes most of the diseases he treats are preventable, but the buxom hospital matron is obstructive. The mine management puts London shareholder profits before people. Entrenched Mayor Buchanan, with low expectations and a tight fist, dismisses Sunny’s ambitions.

Mavourneen is surprisingly welcomed by the small Jewish community still reeling from the Holocaust.  Comfortable with the English mores she grew up with she is Sunny’s greatest asset but marital miscues are heartbreaking as she tries to please.

Sunny wants proper indoor toilets for everyone. He realizes beyond medical improvements Umzimtuti could become an industrial center.  The only way to bring it about is to oust Mayor Buchanan. Mavourneen and the Jewish community worry anti-Semitism will affect his campaign as the struggles of the Jews against the British Mandate in Palestine  are broadcast nightly on the BBC Overseas Service.  But he is confident; “the people will judge me on my own record.”  He is winning the people over one spot-on medical diagnosis and treatment or decisive surgical intervention at a time.

But then there is news  King George VI, Ruler of the British Empire and Emperor of India,  will actually stop off on his Victory Tour.  It’s whitewash everywhere.  Everyone’s preoccupied with the building of a Royal Retreat on the Umzimtuti River, planning a welcoming Royal Tea at the Railway Park and much else.  Fervor for King and Country reaches fever pitch.

Sunny’s days are eighteen hours long.  He knows he cannot afford to lose a medical case, whatever the cause.  His political campaign is waning, when the phone rings, yet again, in the middle of the night…

Is Sunny about to ruin his track record and his credibility? Will this town sacrifice true progress for a good show?

Africa amplifies everything.  Whitewashed Jacarandas is about medicine, miracles, misfits and miscues and the cost of conformity and suppression of emotional life to find fulfillment  in the immense task of a half built civilization.

Seven out of thirteen national agents I pitched asked for more at the Willamette Writers Conference.  Two have asked for the entire manuscript, one requesting a two week ‘exclusive’. Meanwhile I continue to solicit other agents and fine tune the manuscript based on the feedback from my Inner Circle.

In case you are wondering if this story, set almost seventy years ago, is relevant today even Bill Gates is involved with his Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Water-Sanitation-and-Hygiene

and progress is more elusive than one might expect: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-03/india-s-toilet-race-failing-as-villages-don-t-use-them.html

photo credit http://aroundguides.com/14248198/Photos




  • Betty

    Reply Reply September 5, 2014

    Heavens! Incredible! Enticing….I want to run out and buy it today!! Diana, this intro is magnificent…makes me want more and more….you are so talented! Love you and good luck!! Betty


    Reply Reply April 24, 2015

    Dear Diana,

    How lovely to stumble upon your blog!

    Mirah Bradt here! I am the eldest daughter of the late Jacob and Queenie Bradt – we lived at 13 Burma Road right next to the shul. My brother is Laurence Bradt (Israel) and my sister Aviva Bradt. Aviva and I live in Johannesburg today.

    Your Dad, a remarkable person, who was also our GP delivered all the Bradt Children into this world 🙂 I vividly remember both your parents as I do visiting your parents home on many occasions.

    As we were a bit younger than you – I was born in 1961 and we left Que Que in 1978 – I don’t remember you being in QQ other than on occasional visits when we were growing up….

    I would love to catch up with you. And our friends and neighbors..

    Best wishes,
    Mirah Bradt

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 24, 2015

      Mirah, Lovely to hear from you. Yes, I was finishing school by the time you were born but the Jewish community was small and I believe your parents were faithful political supporters of my dads…enjoy browsing the over 200 of them I am sure many of the names and events didn’t change much over the years. The first of my quartet of historical novels based loosely on our Rhodesian experience will be out soon and I will post a blog to notify everyone of the launch, so stay tuned.

  • Dave

    Reply Reply August 3, 2015

    How di get a copy of your book. My mother was born in Selukwe and raised in Que Que. My grandfather worked on the Gaika mine. I want to get a book for my mother. Thanks

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 12, 2015

      Dave, My book Whitewashed Jacarandas is just hot off the Amazon press, available in paperback and kindle.
      ISBN-13: 978-1515366829 book
      ISBN-10: 1515366820 kindle

      I would love to have your mother’s comments on the book on the blog, Amazon or Goodreads…

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