Local stories told with heart

2011-08-31 00:00

IT’S no secret that I love the short­story genre. Nothing is more satisfying to me than being able to read a story from start to finish in one sitting. So it was with relish that I picked up this collection from the award­winning writer, Diane Awerbuck. I wasn’t disappointed.

Setting her stories mostly in and around Cape Town, Awerbuck uses a glitteringly bright precision to dissect her characters’ lives. They come from all walks of life, but each is given the same incisive treatment, as their motivations and aspirations are probed by the author’s scalpel-sharp pen. Even the dream-like depths of the subconscious are exposed, as in ­Mami Wata, where a young woman’s fears about her partner’s fidelity are given monstrous form.

Awerbuck’s subject matter ranges far and wide. A romantic encounter on the steps of the Baxter Theatre ­exposes the deep need between two potential lovers; a pregnant woman contemplates her life with and without her drug-addict partner; a drunken stag night has consequences for a Kimberley wedding; a lonely librarian searches for meaning in her alienating neighbourhood; an aging twin brother and sister find eternal peace together in a visit to a morbid memorial.

The story which I found the most profound was The Extra Lesson. ­Awerbuck takes an unflinching look at an unfortunate American trend: the school shooting. In this story, she examines the events from a teacher’s point of view. She depicts the pathos of the children caught in the crossfire with masterly precision, and comes to grips with the mind-set of school ­killers. It’s the most touching story in this collection.

Awerbuck is a consummate story teller, with an unflinching eye for the minutiae which make up everyday life. Adding each precise detail to build up her palette, she paints the landscapes of her characters with ­hyper-realism. This collection is ­worthy of standing alongside the masters of the short-story genre, and is deserving of international acclaim.

BOOK REVIEW

Cabin Fever

Diane Awerbuck

Umuzi

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