The narrative is told through different characters’ voices. Cathleen, Farhana and Zee, the younger characters embroiled in drugs, alcohol and unsafe sex. The older ones Flora, Frank and Runyararo navigating a space which is too wide with too much left unsaid. This is a novel which could be playing out right now in more homes than we care to think about.
Set in Parkview, north of Johannesburg, the relationship between the family and the domestic help is accurately caught. The familial and romantic relationships which are progressing are described poignantly and with great sensitivity.
The writing echoes the sadness and loneliness which become ‘normal’ when we live past each other.
The reality of living in a society where crime is almost an everyday occurrence and the effects of the psychological stress is clearly seen in Frank’s actions. Between the environmental dangers and his grief, he is responsible for setting into motion a series of events which lead to the complete breakdown of his family.
Ameera Patel captures the vulnerability of each character in a way which punches you in the gut.
A highly recommended read.
Karina M. Szczurek
The Fifth Mrs Brink is a memoir of grief, love, life and loss.
Karina Szczurek’s story begins with diary entries immediately after the death of her husband André P Brink. The grief is raw, taking its toll on her physically and emotionally. The memoir is a searingly honest account of life before André, during her marriage and after his death.
The love which they shared is something many of us dream of. I would not have guessed that André had such a soft and caring side. His immediate search for Rudolf the Bear in the wee hours of the morning brought tears to my eyes. His caring for Karina during bouts of pain, a testament to a love that ran deep.
They also shared a passion for tennis, rugby and chocolate, which is a running theme throughout the memoir (as are the trio Mozart, Salieri and Glinka!). She writes about André as a husband, friend, lover and cook. I especially loved the image of André as a ‘speedster’ driver, and the delightful ‘Brink Mobile’ found a special place in my heart.
With an age gap of 42 years, the connection between these two souls is almost magical. Karina writes about their first meeting at the airport in Vienna : “Call it coincidence. I call it fate.” and “Like Don Quixote his Dulcinea, André made me possible.”
Karina admits to having a thing for numbers. I must admit there was something uncanny about the dates which crop up in the book : Karina proposed to André on 06/02/2006; they married on 20/06/2006; and André breathed his last on 06/02/2015.
This is writing which comes from the soul. There are parts which are so deeply personal and intimate that I had to stop reading and breathe. It is a testament not only to a Karina that was, but also an honoring of a love which is so rare : “Our kind of sharing is a treasure that I am most unlikely ever to find again.”
After reading the author’s debut novel, the hilarious Ms Conception, I was curious to see how the psychological thriller Things Unseen would be given voice by Pamela Power.
Set in a Johannesburg suburb, Westcliff, the novel opens with the gruesome murder of an elderly woman. This whodunnit uses the paranoia that South Africans feel about crime rather humorously- the first suspects usually are the gardener or domestic.
Emma, whose mother is the victim, is not convinced that the Zimbabwean gardener committed a hate crime and is determined to be a modern day ‘Nancy Drew’.
She also has to deal with issues of infertility and a spouse who is rigorously unfaithful. Added to the scene are an ex-lover and brother who has never grown up. In both her novels, Ms Power has gifted her protagonist, with the support of girlfriends who are always rallying support.
Things Unseen is an enjoyable, humorous novel, with twists and turns in the most unexpected places. It is fast paced with a tight cast of characters and suspects. I can’t wait for the next novel from this talented author.