fredag den 29. oktober 2010

Malla Nunn, A Beautiful Place to Die (2009)

This debut is written by an Astralian author, born in South Africa.

The setting is South Africa of the 1950s, a country marred by rigid race laws and strict hierarchies, making police work an intricate act of balance.

The story begins when Willem Pretorius, Afrikaner and police captain, is shot. He belongs to the leading family of the local community so the write detective Cooper knows how important it is to find the killer – at least if the perpetrator is not someone who belongs to ´volk´ in the eyes of his temperamental sons.

“The younger brothers nodded a greeting, wary of the city detective in the pressed suit and green-striped tie. In Jo´burg he looked smart and professional. On the veldt with men who smelled of dirt and diesel fuel he was out of place.”

Even among the police force the hierarchy is strict. From bottom to top: Shabalala, half-Zulu and half Shangaan – an intelligent man who is excellent at reading a crime scene. Hansi Hepple, the naive Afrikaner, Emmanuel Cooper, the white detective from Johannesburg, and above him, the security branch who do what they can to take over the case when it seems that the motive was political.

Even though I enjoyed the environment and the characters, I read the four hundred pages very slowly. As I could only snatch a chapter in between work, it took a lot of time to keep track of all the layers of the South African society. Besides, I think the depiction of the Apartheid-ridden society is the best part of the book while the murder plot struck me as less engaging.

Maxine
sent me the book which was an excellent choice for the 2010 Global Reading Challenge (South Africa).

12 kommentarer:

Beth F sagde ...

Shoot. So sorry that this one didn't grab you. I'm not sure I would have stuck with it.

Kelly sagde ...

Whether the book was good or not, the cover is stunning!!

pattinase (abbott) sagde ...

Been sitting on my TBR pile for a long time. Maybe I'll move it down a few spots.

Margot Kinberg sagde ...

Dorte - Thanks so much for this thoughtful and careful review. I'm sorry, too, that you weren't more engaged in the book, but I was really happy to get your take on it.

Dorte H sagde ...

Dear me; I always feel so guilty when I write a less than glowing review of a book that many other readers love. It has some strong points, but there is not that much genuine police work.

Bernadette in Australia sagde ...

Of course it's OK for you to have a different opinion - how boring life would be if we all agreed on everything. I don't think reading is ever objective and you can't change how you react. I did love this book but I can understand the comments you made and you've been very fair.

Kerrie sagde ...

I thought the apartheid stuff added significance even to the murder. Pretorius is murdered because he is trying to live an old style life. I am one of those who think it is a great book. My review is here.

Dorte H sagde ...

Bernadette: I found Emmanuel Cooper and Shabalala very engaging, and if I hadn´t had to read it in tiny bits, I´d probably have enjoyed it more. It just turned into a drag.

Kerrie: I liked the way the writer informs us about Apartheid, but that is not a new story to me. I have taught some of Nadine Gordimer´s stories about SA. And to be honest, they grabbed me much more.

....Petty Witter sagde ...

At least you can say you got something out of this book even if it wasn't quite what you expected.

Dorte H sagde ...

Tracy: I certainly did! And I can understand that many readers love it.

Maxine sagde ...

Nice review, Dorte. I agree with Bernadette and others, that the best reviews are the honest (but considered) ones, not the ones that imitate what others have written or thought. I liked your review.

Dorte H sagde ...

Thank you, Maxine. I am trying to live up to my own ideal here ;D

And as long as people can see there are also some really good aspects, I hope they will give it a chance if they think it might appeal to them.