Fear & fury in Parys. The book that every South African should read

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Lisa Skinner

These are Not Gentle People

By Andrew Harding

At dusk, on a warm evening, a group of 40 men - mainly farmers - gathered in the corner of a dusty field on a farm outside Parys in the Free State. Some were in afury. Others treated the whole thing as a joke – a game. 

They'd caught two black men who they suspected of having attacked an elderly landowner. The events of the next two hours would come to haunt them all. They would rip families apart,prompt an attempted suicide, breakdowns, divorce, bankruptcy, threats of violent revenge and acts of unforgivable treachery and push a community to breaking point.

This book is a courtroom drama, crime thriller, fast-paced literary novel and a searing examination of a country divided. In a nutshell: it's a totally absorbing read.

What the reviewers have been saying:

“This is a book of profound importance. Through its pages there runs a deep and sympathetic understanding of a troubled country. A masterpiece.” Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

"A smartly paced true-crime thriller with a vivid cast of characters, These are not Gentle People is as tense as it is disturbing, richly evoking the mood of a dark, dry place in the heart of South Africa where racial fear lingers, brutal rage flares and everyone remains trapped in the cruel coils of history." John Carlin, author of Playing The Enemy (the basis for the film Invictus)

“These Are Not Gentle People is a South African tragedy.  Page after page, reveals the painful truth, that the sun has set on Mandela’s Rainbow Nation. Dreams and hopes of a better future have been silenced by fear, racial tension and a disengaged political system.  The lives of the characters, from the landless and poor blacks, to the white landowners caught in a vortex of fear and oblivion, are a true reflection of South Africa’s unfinished business – building a country that belongs to all.  For the people of Parys, that dream is elusive and the contestation for a place under the sun, is fierce, brutal and deadly. A gripping and painful read, told with empathy and nuance, These Are Not Gentle People, is an uncomfortable reminder that the past is not over.”  Redi Thlabi - South African broadcaster.

About the author: who is Andrew Harding?
He's the author of the internationally acclaimed The Mayor of Mogadishu and a foreign correspondent for BBC News, who lives in Johannesburg.

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