Two daughters and their dying mother

2008-10-02 08:05

THERE is a Season was originally published in Afrikaans as Vergenoeg in 2003, and now is available in this English translation by K. L. Seegers.

Like so much of Van der Vyver's writing, the novel deals in relationships at a time of stress. This time the focus is on a dying woman and her two daughters.

San, the responsible, organised lawyer's wife from Cape Town, and her sister Bella, a cabaret singer who lives in Paris, fetch their mother Adele from hospital so that she can die in her own home in the small rural Cape town of Vergenoeg. The three women face their fears and demons as Adele's inevitable death comes ever closer.

There are other characters on the periphery of the story, but in the main the focus is on Adele, San and Bella. The sisters have always been very different - particularly in their public faces. But now, faced with the practicalities and emotional pain of coping with their mother's illness, their roles begin to change. And, at a time when emotions are close to the surface, there is a need for a new honesty.

Van der Vyver is always skilful in dealing with the intimacy of close relationships - the secrets, the dissembling and the disappointments. There is a Season is a book in a minor key, intimate and on a small scale, unlike the author's more recently written Time Out, in which I felt her writing moved up to a new level. But this is still an enjoyable read.

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