Monday, May 12, 2008

Like Water in Wild Places by Pamela Jooste

The stories and legends of the Bushmen were told to Conrad when he was twelve years old. He was on a hunting trip with his father, Jack Hartmann, a brutal but confused man who 'gave' Conrad an old Bushman to teach him the ways of the land. Bastiaan taught him not only about the beasts and plants and soil, but inculcated in Conrad a philosophy that would remain with him throughout his life.

But at home Conrad learns a different set of rules as he and Beeky, the young sister he adores, huddle together listening to the sound of his mother being beaten and told she is trash. Jack Hartmann, a senator and man of power in the community, hates his wife and daughter as much as he loves his son, and Conrad's mother impresses on him that he must always protect and guard his little sister.

As they achieve maturity, Conrad appears to conform to the vision his father has for him. But Beeky defies her father and the establishment, and goes her own way, yearning for a new South Africa, a new life, tenderness and kindness in place of hatred and derision.

I quite enjoy reading the occasional South African novel. This one was well written but lacked cohesion in my opinion. It seems to have many underlying story-lines that never quite combine properly, The Old Madam and her traitor son and even Jerome's detailed side-line story. It was a nice read, but nothing spectacular story-line wise. Read it if you enjoy South African fiction in general.


Tamara said...

This was the only one of her books I didn't enjoy. Have you read Dance with a Poor Man's Daughter? Much better. It was before she started plagiarising:

phillygirl said...

@tamara - Haven't read that yet ... will def remember to give it a try if I get the opportunity tho ;) Thanks!

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