A disappointing read

2011-09-21 00:00

AS the title suggests, this is the story of a petty act which results in apparently significant consequences.

Written in the first person, it appears to be an act of expiation and

clarification from Jack Viljee, a boy of 11, who ponders on his

identity as a white South African of mixed Afrikaner and English heritage in the year 1989.

The book deals with many

important issues: identity, inheritance, domestic servitude, race relations and apartheid, which are all filtered through the apparent understanding of an 11-year-old boy.

The author clearly feels that such serious content needs some alleviation, and this is

administered through the smutty, cheeky humour of Jack.

It seems that the intention of the author is to heighten the poignancy through this device, but for this reader, it became


alienating. Somehow the adult male writer leaks through in a rather

nauseatingly coy fashion.

In the

interests of

balance, the back cover

contains a quote from Douglas Copeland proclaiming the read to be “smart, charming, funny,

highly astute and subtly political, a really terrific read”, so

perhaps I am just the wrong gender and age for this book,

although I have to admit to

being captivated by other books written through the eyes of children.

The problem may be that the author (this is his first book) thinks he has created an

appealing if naughty boy, whereas Jack is simply unpleasant and not always believable as a

character: a pity, because the book deals with really heart-rending issues.

Hazel Barnes

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