08 November 2007

There is a Season (Marita van der Vyver)

When I encountered Marita van der Vyver’s last book, Where the Heart is, I described it as ‘a pretty cake tin filled with slices of life’ and I mentioned how some of its tongue-in-cheek comments on people and personalities ‘made my shoulders shake with such uncontrollable mirth that I woke the sleeping man at my side’.

Well, Marita’s done it again. This time, when my chuckles woke the (same) man beside me, he knew enough to ask, “It’s that Afrikaans author again, isn’t it?”

There is a Season (translated from the Afrikaans Vergenoeg) is both very funny and very heart-breaking. It gives us Adele, a charismatic woman of 60, who leaves hospital to go home to rural Vergenoeg and die of cancer – in the arms of her adult daughters, the irritatingly responsible San and the unashamedly irreverent Bella.

As Adele's physical deterioration – and the feelings that accompany this process – is described in painful detail, we ache for all three characters. And we’re reminded of mothers and daughters and family and fights and present selves and past mistakes and journeys that, in the end, have nothing and everything to do with death.

Like Where the Heart is, There is a Season doesn’t read at all like a translation, instead featuring beautiful English flavoured with whimsical ingredients and delicious dialogue.


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