Novel set in eighties SA

2009-05-27 00:00


Choke Chain

Jason Donald

Jonathan Cape

IN as far as this story goes to the confusion that many children suffer when marriages fall apart, this book has a great deal to recommend it. Set in eighties South Africa, Bruce Thorne, a swaggering, dishonest, self-centred hooligan is the father of Alex, aged 12, and his younger brother. Shamelessly, Bruce carries out a range of unlawful acts from setting alight his car for the insurance to restaurant fraud, all in the name of staying ahead. He has the temerity to suggest that one of the problems with society is that people lack respect and he objects to a friend that Alex brings home because he is from an Afrikaans background.

Change for the better comes when mother, whose name is Grace, takes the boys off to her sister Brandy in Durban for a holiday. They all have a good time but when Kevin, supported by Alex, has a cheap shot at black children he is firmly put in place by his aunt. When they get home Alex takes on much more of a supportive role and does his best to make something of Christmas in what is now a fatherless home with Grace in depression and drinking quite heavily. Father attempts a comeback but Alex discovers that his new bimbo is a schoolgirl at the high school where he has just started. This is almost the last straw but there is a reversion to father’s values when the boys are caught stealing perfume as a gift for their mother. What is good here is that Grace deals with it really impressively. Alex finally rejects his father and his values and in doing so realises that he has turned his back on “the most dangerous person he knows.’’

The end is a little lame. We are not sure about mother’s rehabilitation and the metaphorical link with the awful dog and the choke chain doesn’t work all that well. That aside, an enjoyable read.


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