ENTERTAINING ANGELS by Marita van der Vyver


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 This Afrikaans debut novel, which became a bestseller and garnered South Africa's biggest literary prize, tells a modern-day fairy tale with an irreverent, feminist twist. Van de Vyver offers an enlightened albeit somewhat lost protagonist named Griet. After her husband of seven years tells Griet he can't live with her anymore, she squats at a friend's apartment in Capetown and takes account of her life. Griet grew up on fairy tales, ``stories handed down from the people for the people'' with a ``crystal-clear division between good and evil.'' Although such stories bear little relation to the world around her, which is filled with racial strife and appears to have no Prince Charming, Griet has faith in the lessons they hold for modern society. So, armed with her therapist's suggestion to use her relatively unexplored passion for writing, Griet personalizes classic folktales to create a coherent and meaningful narrative of her own history. In wittily titled chapters like ``Snow White Takes a Bite of the Apple'' and ``Rapunzel Rescues Herself,'' Griet wryly relates her story, including a hilariously rendered failed suicide attempt in which, having stuck her head in the oven, she's startled by the sight of a dead cockroach and, horrified, pulls back and bangs her head. Griet writes her way out of her guilt over her failed marriage to a self-centered and callous husband (Could she have saved the marriage by ``not locking the keys in the car''?) and out of the sadness of three failed pregnancies, and recognizes the blessing of coming from a long line of relatives who believed in angels and ghosts. It's a little frustrating when, after Griet finally comes to terms with being alone and being a writer, van der Vyver has her discover the man of her dreams--then again, this book could only stray so far and still be called a fairy tale. Mixing honest prose and literary allusion with dreams and politics, van der Vyver has written a funny, intelligent, and inventive novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93918-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994