The lighter and heavier sides of life

2012-08-22 00:00


Survival Training for Lonely Hearts

Elana Bregin


ELANA Bregin’s latest novel is a romp through the sordid horrors of Internet dating, the minefield of local publishing — something about which her years of being an editor at UKZN Press will have given her plenty of first-hand knowledge — and the problems of dog ownership. It all comes packaged as, ultimately, a romantic novel, but also one that is very specific to South Africa, and is not quite as frothy as the foregoing might suggest.

Kate Woolf is a 40-something single, living in Assagay. Her boss at Centaur Press is more than difficult, is demanding and a serious drinker. It makes for a stressful work life, but Kate’s attempt to find comfort in her private life through the Internet is seemingly doomed to ghastly dates with a parade of the sad, the needy or the downright horrible. Her favourite author has just died — in fact, things could hardly get worse.

But they do.

Heading off to rural Zululand for the funeral, she finds herself the owner of a puppy: a puppy with problems. And her local vet, apart from being expensive, is abrasive and unpleasant.

Bregin combines intelligent delving into the murky waters of white guilt and black anger with the romantic comedy aspects of Kate’s story. It is potentially a risky strategy — the two themes don’t immediately appeal to the same audience — but Bregin brings them together well. And after all, in South Africa the lighter and the heavier aspects of life co-exist all the time, so it’s good to see them do it in South African fiction.

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