Hefty and unremitting

2009-06-03 00:00



Wilbur Smith


THERE’S just no other way to say it: this is the clunkiest load of kitsch I have ever read.

Admittedly, most of the problem is that I have attention deficit disorder when it comes to blockbuster movies. So when it comes to books, the author’s brief is simple: get to it, preferably in the first three sentences, or the book is considered firelighter material for a weekend braai. In the case of Wilbur Smith’s Assegai, it took merely three words before I was ready to blow-torch the thing.

This time round the author has chosen the southern African landscape, which was his playground in his formative years. In this story, the central figure is an ex-soldier turned big-game hunter Leon Courtney, who stumbles across a plot against the British.

Smith’s books are consistently unremitting, and this 32nd title is no different. Assegai is written with such hefty prose that picking the book up is a workout in itself. “Best-selling” novelist? It’s beyond fathom for me.

His own life would make a more intriguing read: the 76-year-old has been married four times and survived everything from cerebral malaria as an infant to charging lions in the African heartland. He watched and endured the death of his third wife, Danielle, to a brain tumour. In-between it all is a bunch of tabloid scandal — some true, some not.

The next thing I read by Wilbur Smith will be his biography (written by someone else). Until then I echo two of my colleagues’ sentiments … life is short and Wilbur Smith is just hard work.

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