Betrayal in Jo-Anne Turner's Touching the Lighthouse (Review, pounds 16.99) is the consequence of carelessness. Jennifer, now middle-aged, looks back over a life clouded with guilt to her youth in Cape Town in the period preceding the 1970s state of emergency. She and her friend Susan had comprised "the Sisterhood of Women", a snobbish club of two whose wildness consists of smoking, drinking, a bit of skinny-dipping and one inebriated lesbian display. Meanwhile both hold down respectable jobs and feel superior to "ordinary people".
Things come to a head when Jennifer and Susan are asked to provide a safe house for a young activist wanted by the police. This they do, with staggering insouciance, and the result is tragedy. Guilt aside, this is primarily a female buddy book. When the two come together again in middle age, they still play the same game, "blowing our rebellious smoke over the disapproving tables" in the Ritz. A dollop of irony would have redeemed this book.
Simpler, subtler and more moving than either of these novels is Pamela Jooste's Dance With A Poor Man's Daughter (Doubleday, pounds 15.99). It concentrates on everyday experience for a child of the Cape Coloured community as the Group Areas Act forcibly removes people from their homes to make way for white housing. Eleven-year-old Lily Daniels lives with her grandmother and aunt, having been abandoned as a baby by the beautiful runaway Gloria who, it is rumoured, "took a little trip on the Kimberley train". This is a euphemism for the "try-for-Whites", who leave their families in search of a new life on the other side of the divide.
Lily's clear narration chronicles the mundanity of school and home, the backdrop of gangster violence, the coming of the bulldozers and the return of her prodigal mother. Her innocence and homespun wisdom can be irritatingly Forrest Gumpish. However, she is tough, smart and vulnerable in the face of overwhelming forces, and as such becomes emblematic of an entire people.Reuse content