THE MASK by Stuart Cloete


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This comes closer to the mood and tempo of the unforgettable Turning Wheels than anything Cloete has done since. While it hasn't the majestic sweep of a nation's trek to background the story, there is again the bitter struggle for survival -in the mid 19th century- as the dispossessed Boers sought to find a permanent habitation in a frontier still ravaged now and again by the Kaffirs, resentful- as were our Indians- at losing lands they considered their own. The story centers on Schalk, a rancher of considerable wealth and possessions, under the thumb of his tiny wife, Johanna, and the sons and daughters she had borne him; on the youngest daughter, Sybella, who wanted none of the security her mother sought for her- but yearned for the frontiers to the north; on the visiting painter, Simon, who dared not see too much of Sybella, for he wanted freedom to seek his fortune and adventure, not knowing that this is what she too sought. Then Schalk -- on a hunting trip- is attacked is his sleep by a wolf, and loses his face. Only an ancient Bushman servant saw life when others thought him dead; and with Sybella's aid, rescued him and restored him to health- his faceless face concealed by a leather mask. They take what is his to take-and Sybella and her brother- set forth to the north, and there, eventually, after great adventures- encounter again the artist, Simon, who too has matured under the violence of the frontier life, the bitter attacks, massacres, etc. This is perhaps a story more of a people who win through to a chance for a future- than it is a rounded story of the principals involved. But it is carried along with sweep and color and drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1957
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin