I primarily read this book because my sister, B, is mentioned in the acknowledgements, and as usual, she enticed me into this read. This was my longest read; it makes the reader think, engaging mentally with the characters. Also because some parts are so poetic and have a deeper meaning, you can’t just read over those parts in the hope that it will make more sense later. Make sense of it now.
In one sentence, this book is about Patricia’s truth.
This is a book written by a South African author, who knows the country’s rich history and the setting of this book exudes and explores that history. It’s not about right, wrong, black or white but is simply about truth – the realities that these characters have experienced and have wanted to understand. It seems that Patricia has lived, a life that seems fulfilled but one filled with pain, a level of ignorance and one lacking understanding of situations.
Richard, her husband, is a shadow of the man he once was and Patricia seemingly just goes through the motions with him – starting from breakfast, their life on the farm and ends with a goodnight at the end of the day.
Bheki, Beauty and Looksmart – their lives are intertwined with their souls with knowledge of their past selves. Bheki and Beauty are Patricia’s driver and helper respectively. Looksmart, is a farmworker’s son, who was taken by Patricia and put into a good school. Throughout his growth, Looksmart has seen and gone through a lot of pain, that Patricia has been ignorant to. It is often said that a story has three angles; yours, mine and the truth. Patricia has happy memories of her time with Looksmart and he, well, he has let his pain define him – define the man he now is to not only his wife but his children and the way in which he shows his love, the little that he has left. His hatred changes the course of his life.
Looksmart blames Patricia for a lot of the misfortunes of his youth and the vessel of those actions, Richard, it seems is no longer able to pay for the injustices he caused – or is this an unfair assumption? Maybe Richard is paying for those injustices in a way far more cruel and yet befitting of his crimes.
This novel is beautifully written, taking the reader on a journey of discovery; a love unexplored and an understanding of what pain can do to one if left unresolved.
I’d also like to point out that in this edition that I read (which is the paperback edition that was brought out about a year after the original trade paperback) has a beautiful Foreword written by Craig which goes into the ‘first’ dream house – a bit of the history and background to what inspired the novel.