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Gillian Slovo (father Joe Slovo, mother Ruth First) was educated in Britain where she has spent all her adult life. Since Nelson Mandela's release she has made frequent visits to South Africa. She has written eleven books.
This remarkable exposition of a Truth Commission amnesty hearing in a backwater South African town underscores that "the full truth" is more complex than court transcript or verdict can ever reveal. South African police brutally tortured and murdered at will in their unfettered efforts to crush the "terrorist" acts of black rebels against apartheid. Now those rebels occupy the higher branches of government while the offending policemen are imprisoned. Sarah Barcant left the dusty, dead-end town of Smitsrivier 14 years ago to become a successful New York City prosecutor, but drops everything to heed the call of hometown mentor and antiapartheid activist Ben Hoffman. Ben represents brilliant legislator Alex Mpondo at the amnesty hearing of former Smitsrivier policeman Dirk Hendricks, who brutally tortured Alex and knows the truth about the murder of his friend Steve Sizela. Steve's body and killer were never found, and Steve's parents push Sarah to use Dirk's hearing to implicate Pieter Muller, another policeman, never charged, who now runs a security firm in Smitsrivier. Slovo (Catnap; Every Secret Thing), herself the daughter of antiapartheid activists, skillfully handles Sarah's quandary of returning to face her past and reexamine her life in the light of long-term exile. The reader can almost taste the dust and feel the heat of the stultifying locale; the scatter of words in Afrikaans enhances the absorbing, fast-paced narrative. Amnesty hearings are meant to bring closure to the violent period that ended apartheid by forgiving crimes by former officials, where possible. But this powerful novel full of legal and emotional twists and turns strips bare the torment forever ingrained in victim and jailer alike, a torment that runs through all segments of post-apartheid society. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
'A rich, ambitious and powerful novel.' THE TIMES 'This is a beautifully written novel, with the pace and twists of a thriller and the atmosphere, scents and space of Africa.' GUARDIAN 'Covers the territory of Bernard Schlink's post-Holocaust novel The Reader as well as J.M. Coetzee's Booker-winning Disgrace.' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
The author of several mysteries and the memoir Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country, about her life as the daughter of white South African antiapartheid activists, Slovo takes several chapters to hit her stride here, but once she does her latest novel heats up. Sarah Barcant, an expatriate lawyer living in New York, is called back to rural South Africa to help her mentor present a case against Dirk Hendricks, an admitted torturer, for a Truth Commission hearing. The victim, Alex Mpondo, now an MP in the new government, would rather forget the whole horrifying experience. Instead, he is pressured to testify by the father of his close friend, who is desperately seeking closure for his son's death at the hands of Hendricks's boss, former police interrogator Pieter Muller. This compelling tale reunites torturer and victim, exploring issues of guilt and complicity, loyalty and betrayal, and truth and justice. Liberal use of South Africanisms lends authenticity and flavor. Recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with an interest in contemporary South Africa. Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty. Lib. Svcs., Medford, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.