Book review – Planet Savage

2011-11-05 10:43

There is a rich tradition of literature and comics that uses a precocious child as a protagonist who resents the way in which adults conduct themselves.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Bill Watterson’s comical Calvin & Hobbes illustrate this brilliantly. And now a new South African voice has entered the domain in the form of a nine-year-old named Leungo.

We meet Leungo during the December holidays in his township in North West. He is the only child of two hard-working and perpetually thirsty parents.

It is hot, uncles and aunts are coming to stay and he has nobody to play with, so his entertainment involves eavesdropping on the adults’ conversations and watching his father and his friends get drunk.

After Christmas, Leungo’s father takes him to a faraway rural village to meet his grandparents. The boy has fantasies about village life, but his fantasies are shattered when he has to contend with the stingy old woman who is his grand-mother and a dirty brute for a cousin.

And so he sets off back to his township ahead of schedule to the warmth of his immediate family and their friends. His experience has taught him to appreciate what he has.

Gabonewe writes colourfully, stretching his vocabulary in the manner of the writers of the 1950s. At times, though, one wishes the language was simpler.

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