Kings of the Water, By Mark Behr
Sunday 12 September 2010
Early in the new millennium, Michiel Steyn returns to his family's farm in South Africa for his mother's funeral. It proves a difficult experience: his political views, forged in left-liberal circles in California during his long exile, clash with those of his Afrikaner family, while his elderly father, in particular, struggles to accept his homosexuality.
Michiel's return, and the memories of the Apartheid era that assail him, are vividly drawn. This novel has been compared with Chekhov; with a nominal plot concerning a once-wealthy estate set to be reclaimed by the underclass, there are shades of The Cherry Orchard. But, stylistically at least, Virginia Woolf seems the more pertinent influence: like Woolf, Behr is less interested in the conventional mechanics of narrative than in conveying the workings of memory, the way seemingly insignificant details can prompt a wave of reminiscence.
The result is a rich, elegiac novel that offers a subtle commentary on the new South Africa; the emphasis on remembrance lends it both an intimacy and a wider social resonance. As Michiel's childhood friend Karien puts it: "Here there's this obsession with remembering... perhaps it's because people can talk freely for the first time."
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
Game of Thrones writer George RR Martin releases extract from new book
King Charles III London Underground theatre poster pixelated amid fears it might cause offence
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
Kingdom Tower: Construction of 1km high new world’s tallest building to begin next week in Saudi Arabia
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'