Six friends and their squalid city life

2008-10-02 08:05

Dreams are good to have and even better when fulfilled. This is the lesson learnt by six young men, Matome, Zulu-boy, Molamo, D'nice, Modishi and the narrator of Room 207. The story revolves around the lives of these men living in a one-bedroomed flat number 207 in Hillbrow for over 10 years, hence the title of the book.

The author invites the reader to trace the lives of the characters as they endeavour to fulfil a common dream of moving up in life and out of Hillbrow and how their personal and career successes and failures are influenced by decisions they made in their past. The ghetto intellectuals are dropouts from various cultural backgrounds, connected by their common habitat and their need to hustle to pay the rent and stay alive.

Readers are bound to find a character they can relate to. Matome is secretive, Molamo is a jack of all trades, Modishi's honesty earned him the title of “John the Baptist”, D'nice is extremely intelligent yet is afraid to use his capabilities to the full and Zulu-boy treats anybody who is not Zulu as sub-human but embraces Hillbrow as his safe haven.

At some stage the book borders on reading like a guide book on how to survive Hillbrow, yet Moele manages to impress with glimpses of raw narration, reminiscent of Richard Rive's District Six and commands the reader's attention with his gangster approach. This adds colour to the atmosphere of the book but could also alienate the reader.

If you can take a gulp of the reality of dingy urban life and withstand the odd use of vulgar multilingual colloquialism, perhaps you can unravel a deeper meaning behind Moele's debut novel which uses vivid imagery in an attempt to ask pertinent questions about the squalor of city life and the impact it has on the aspirations of its inhabitants.

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