Monday, 20 November 2006

The Bright House

Okay lovies. Just before I say anything remember that I no longer have a brain so don't expect my reviews to be anything elsa-like. Whilst I do read a lot in my semi employed state, I tend to read junk, so please forgive me.

Aside from The Blind Assassin, which I'm not even going to try and review because you guys will all say smarter things than me, the most recent book I've read was The Bright House, by Lyn Hughes. (I know. I'd never heard of it either). The book is set in South Africa in the "turbulent 1950s", and is basically the story of the Bierman family. But the Biermans are no 'ordinary' white South African family - Hermie (the dad) is a radical left wing lawyer, Anton (the son) is gay and Jessie herself falls in love with a black man. To quote Els, awkward.

Although this might sound like a checklist of everything you wouldn't want to be in 1950s South Africa and the book obviously does deal with inequality, poverty and injustice, Hughes manages to make the story more about the characters than the place and time they are in. This is NOT an expose on 1950s South Africa (society nerds I know you're disappointed) but rather a story of a girl, her family, and those around them. Somehow, this makes the underlying issues all the more touching. Although The Bright House left me with a profound sense of sadness, it was not in a hallmark "oh the poor deprived people it's just not fair" sense, but rather something deeper and closer to reality. I found the characters to be grippingly real, from headstrong Jessie and fiery, righteous Hermie (to tell the truth he reminds me of sal!), to haunted Lennie and lonely Anton...the list goes on. Hughes has created these characters to tell the story of South Africa in their own lives, as an undertone, an everyday presence of injustice and I commend her for it. It is beautifully, if simply, written, easy to read but still thought provoking. If this book is available anywhere but Lindfield Library (sometimes I think the books there are a completely different species whatsoever) I recommend you get your cotton picking hands on it asap.


sal said...

Im touched that you think of me as fiery :) I must get my hand on this book to see if the comparison is flattering or insulting. Dont worry, im sure its intensely character-driven prose will captivate me either way. Lindfield library it is.

George said...

Haha he is this little flyaway lawyer who's really smart and loud :D
it is a compliment i promise!!!

els said...

who'd have guessed you don't have a brain from this?
i have a book called "cry the beloved country" on my "to read" shelf, appartently a really famous book about south africa, anyone read it?