After the relatively disappointing My Son's Story (1990), Nobelist Gordimer is back near the top of her form in a...



After the relatively disappointing My Son's Story (1990), Nobelist Gordimer is back near the top of her form in a challenging novel of personal and social transformation in a changing South Africa. Apartheid is crumbling, but there's still plenty to do in Johannesburg for Vera Stark, a white lawyer with the activist Legal Foundation, and her black friends Didymus and Sibongile Maqoma, members of ""the Movement"" who have returned home after years of undercover political work in exile. Vera battles to restore land stolen during the government's massive relocations of black communities, but she must also cope -- reluctantly -- with the problems of her son, an expatriate banker in the midst of a divorce in London; her daughter, who has taken a female lover; and her husband, Bennet, whose all-consuming love for Vera has begun to stifle her. Didymus, a longtime member of the Movement's inner circle, finds himself quietly relegated to the organization's periphery, while Sibongile, whose more forceful personality suits the Movement's new needs, moves up to executive positions, even as she worries about their unsettled 16-year-old daughter Mpho, who knows little of her parents' native land. As in A Sport of Nature (1987), Gordimer combines naturalistic details with heightened language and plot lines whose magical ambiguities recall late Shakespearean romances. She uses certain phrases like musical refrains: ""You don't know who this is?"" and ""We can't talk now"" are among the snatches of dialogue that accumulate layers of meaning and emotional resonance through repetition. Her occasionally tangled sentences and high-modernist prose style will alienate some readers, but not those who appreciate the unique way she reveals her characters' interior lives as integrally related to their actions. A vintage display of the moral passion, tempered by unsentimental understanding of the imperfect way we must work out our ideals in the real world, that makes Gordimer one of the most electrifying writers in modern literature.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0140250395

Page Count: 320

Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994