Accomplished tale of human resilience

2009-09-09 00:00


Counting Sleeping Beauties

Hazel Frankel


TWO years ago the manuscript of this first novel by published poet ­Hazel Frankel was the runner-up in both the EU Literary Award in South Africa and the Telegraph UK First Book Award in the United Kingdom. Now out in soft cover format, it tells the story of Hannah, growing up in a Jewish home in Johannesburg in the fifties.

It should have been an idyllic childhood. Her father is a successful lawyer, her grandparents, prewar refugees from Lithuania, are on hand to tell her ­stories of the family background and help with baby­sitting, and Sina, a caring nanny, is also part of the household.

But there is tragedy in the pasts of many of the people there, so much so that when another catastrophe strikes, it is too much to bear, and the whole construct unravels, fault lines that had previously been covered over now revealed as gaping holes.

The story is told through the voices of Hannah herself, her mother ­Susan, her grandmother Leah and Sina. All are convincingly achieved, and the book offers a glimpse into the lives of dispossessed people in prewar ­Europe, rural Africans struggling to survive in apartheid South Africa and those in the comfortable suburbia of the same time. But, despite differences, tragedy ­remains tragedy and its results spread widely.

Counting Sleeping Beauties is an accomplished work, although not a cheerful one. It is a bleak story, ­ and the only comfort it can offer is the resilience of people — some ­anyway — who survive in the face of disasters.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.