DEVIL'S VALLEY by André Brink


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South African novelist and journalist Brink (Reinventing a Continent, 1998, etc.) offers a literary smorgasbord that’s part myth, part allegory, and part conventional love story as he tells of a reporter’s visit to a sinister community. Flip Lochner, now in his late 50’s, has been deserted by his wife, and his journalism job is on hold. After the mysterious killing of Little-Lukas, a young man he befriended in a bar, he impulsively decides to explore Devil’s Valley, where Little-Lukas was born. This isolated valley was settled in the early 1800s by followers of the fundamentalist Christian leader Lukas Lermiet, whose ghost Lochner meets as he begins his difficult trek. Lermiet’s God-fearing band shunned the outside world and insisted on preserving their way of life even if it meant murdering outsiders, condoning the inbreeding that results in deformities, and refusing to share the land with blacks. As a matter of fact, they uncannily resemble those white South Africans who once thought they could maintain apartheid forever. But—and this is the story’s oblique political theme’such an existence is finally neither possible nor desirable, for it is bound to corrupt (and destroy). Lochner, gradually obsessed by a vision of a beautiful woman bathing that overwhelmed him as he entered the valley, soon learns that she actually exists—and is none other than Emma, the very woman loved by Little-Lukas. As Lochner continues on his journey, he discovers that the valley is suffering from a terrible drought; he’s visited by libidinous “night walkers” in his sleep; and he comes across still more ghosts. Naturally, he also falls for Emma, who alone seems “pure.” When he tries to flee with her, though, the community joins to prevent them leaving a place that is indeed a spiritual hell-hole. Evocative, but too fraught and busy to cohere. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100440-4
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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