The Shape of Him, By Gill Schierhout

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The Independent Culture

Sara is the 48-year-old manageress of a boarding house in 1930s South Africa. Detached and jaded, she lives her life in the past, haunted by a love affair with a diamond-digger called Herbert Wakefield. During their relationship, Herbert is diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease and Sara cares for him in hosptial.

Years later, a young girl turns up on Sara's doorstep, claiming to be Herbert's illegitimate daughter. In Sara, Schierhout has created a complex portrait of a woman who, while never expecting happiness, is forced to assimilate the hurtful truth of her lover's betrayal.

The power of one relationship to shape the course of a life lies at the heart of this debut novel played out under the fierce heat of the Cape Town sun. There are few places for Schierhout's sinners to hide.