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Embrace [Hardcover]

Mark Behr
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Mar 2000
The awakening of Karl De Man, a 13-year-old student at the Berg, an exclusive academy for boys in 1970s South Africa. The events of Karl's school-life are interwoven with memories from his childhood and first years at the Berg, as he falls in love with both his best friend and his choirmaster.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company (2 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316853771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316853774
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,816,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A sensitive and subtle story (THE TIMES)

Subtle, complex and compassionate ... Behr excels at exploring the grey areas of complicity and understanding, while larger rights and wrongs are playing themselves out on the horizon (SUNDAY TIMES)

De Man's well drawn family, his original voice and his beautiful prose make this book very special, almost epic (THE GAY AND LESBIAN REVIEW)

[Behr] is adept at varying his style to the mood and age of his protagonist, letting his key character speak for himself (TLS) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* Erotic, passionate coming-of-age novel, set in an exclusive boys' choir school in South Africa. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Parent, Every Teacher, All of Us. 2 April 2000
By A Customer
Sometimes I read the last sentence of a novel first. I am not sure why, though maybe it is because I become impatient or because I think I can get an idea of whether the writer knows where he is taking me.  Although sorely tempted at times to do this with Mark Behr's Embrace, luckily I did not. The last sentence is shattering, putting the whole 590 pages of novel into miniscule perspective. The most insignificant of events and objects suddenly takes on the biggest possible symbolic meaning. This is what lies at the heart of this morally challenging novel. I am now reading it for the second time in two weeks. The book demands from its readers the patience and tenderness which a good parent needs to raise a difficult child. Like Scott Joplin said of ragtime: it has to be done slowly. With respect. This is the story of Karl De Man, a thirteen year old Afrikaner boy in a posh boys' music academy in South Africa. The year is 1976, when poverty-stri  cken black South African children are protesting against the government's policy of forcing them to learn in Afrikaans, the language of their oppressors. This is the historical backdrop against which Karl's world famous music school is rehearsing Beethoven's Solemn Mass - in Latin, no less. Political and social ironies abound throughout. From the outset Karl is in love with his best friend Dominic. In search of some form of unspecified revenge, he also sets out and successfully seduces his choir master, Mister Cilliers. The reader is left with questions of how and why a thirteen year old may be perverted to undertake this dreadful mission. Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bold Literary Hologram 27 May 2000
By A Customer
Written with the agility and grace of a sensitive and secure writer, Embrace provides pleasure and provokes discomfort as it explores the complexities of the maturing mind of a young boy on the cusp of adolescence in a country (South Africa in 1976) experiencing its own rebellious adolescent psyche. The book sweeps through vast landscapes of body, soul, and place, leaving deep gorges, some lovely, many pocked marked, all dramatic. This is a story told courageously with intimate details to prod us along through difficult times, to seduce us into luxuriating in its rich flora and fauna, to convince us that the terrain is worthwhile and exciting, to compassionately understand and feel pain,joy, love, anger, hate, fear, rejection, companionship, and the giddiness that culminates with creative self expression.
Because Mark Behr's language is so dense with meaning and emotion, we can abandon ourselves to his care and trust that he will be honest in his unfolding of this delicate and deliberately told story, and we are not let down. On the contrary, we are elevated. We will never again view harsh words as benign. We will never pretend that manipulation is harmless. We will always be aware of how fragile the human psyche can be. We will never again underestimate the impact of emotional repression, nor undervalue the need for everyone, including young boys and middle aged men, to have an emotional language of words and expression as vast as that of the most caring and sensitive females.
We all desire to love and be loved, to connect with a community of like minded people, to trust that those we love and are in community with will not betray us.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that will stay with you. 5 May 2001
By A Customer
This is an incredible tale of what self-loathing and homophobia can do to a child and how we are all unkowingly complicit in the perpetuation of homophobia. It shows up the paths toward a fake masculinity and the price society pays. Apart from the valuable lessons every reader, especially parents, will learn, this novel also beautilfully describes a child's experience of the African bush, the only place where he can remember experiencing complete harmony and hapiness within himself. Written from the heart, Embrace is a story that stays with you, long after you've read the astonishing last sentence.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, haunting and beautiful book 4 May 2001
By A Customer
The story of Karl De Man is both touching and disturbing. A boy taken to the isolated boys only school of the Drakensburg boys Choir has to learn to confront feelings of adolescent love and the fear of punishment for these relationships. Mark Behr's description of the school is beautiful and very accurate (having visiting it myself). I love the way the story moves from from one place in time to another and the subtle connections between each. Occasionally there is some Afrikaans spoken, which makes the story that much more enchanting.
No book has touched me as much as this book has and three months and four books later I still think of it and smile.
Thank you Mark Behr for sharing this will all of us.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Embrace this book 22 Mar 2000
By A Customer
There's been a spate of books during the last few years that deal with microcosms. The Beach was perhaps the most mainstream of these. These kind of books are always delightful to read, especially when it is really well written and the characters come off the pages. In Mark Behr's novel, Embrace, the reader is also confronted with a kind of microcosm. This time it is an elitist music school in the majestic Drakensberg in South Africa. Karl De Man, the main character, who grew up in the pristine beauty of game reserves and whose parents are not very wealthy, attends this school. He is surrounded by an array of characters, ranging from headmasters that represent the repressive apartheid government at the time (1976) to absolutely delightful "queeny" characters. Karl has a relationshiop with his music master, a relationship through which he gets to know himself, art, love, hate. The novel follows the grown-up Karl's chain of thought as he jumps from his days growing up in the game reserves to his days as part of the music school's world famous choir. Embrace is a demanding novel. I read it and then put it down for some time before the gravity of the book started to sink in. This is a kind of a masterpiece, but not in the tradition of those books that usually qualify as masterpieces. It has some other quality, something not easy to explain. I suggest you read it yourself. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars ... started reading this after a run of 4/5 really good books. I found...
I started reading this after a run of 4/5 really good books. I found it very long winded to start with and that spoilt any good parts. Read more
Published 26 days ago by blondy511
5.0 out of 5 stars Brill
This book is brilliant, have read the first 6 chapters and was enjoyed by what I had read, still a long way to go but dead sure will be just as good as the first six chapters
Published 10 months ago by Phillip Gyde
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge in scope and ultimately deeply moving.
This has to be one of my all time favourite books and was the cause of many sore eyed sleepless nights on first reading and a book that I have returned to many times since. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Matteo_B
4.0 out of 5 stars Confusing
This elaborate story of a boy experiencing an emotional meltdown, while his country and his familiy are experiencing other kinds of meltdowns, is disturbing and confusing. Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2009 by C. J. Willemse
5.0 out of 5 stars Boy in Love - Teacher on the prowl?
Set in Africa, the subject matter centres on the love of a young chorister for his thirty-something teacher, whom he sets out to seduce. Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2007 by S2b an OAP
5.0 out of 5 stars A young Afrikaner's dilemmas
Karl de Man, the narrator, describes his childhood; and as he does we watch him grow from a precocious and slightly effeminate child into the makings of a fine young man. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2007 by Benjamin
5.0 out of 5 stars 700 Pages? I need more!
I have never before attempted such a huge read but I could not help but devour large chunks of reading- 50 pages at a time on a daily commute and regretted it when all came to an... Read more
Published on 29 Dec 2006 by Julaka
5.0 out of 5 stars Two thumbs up!!
I rarely find books that I like, maybe because I really enjoy reading. This book grabbed my attention from the very first sentence. Excellent book, beautifully written. Read more
Published on 19 May 2006 by Eliot
4.0 out of 5 stars A boy's heart
This is a book to disturb, inspire, sadden, provoke. Its massive scale - a daunting prospect for most readers - reflects the huge scope of its subject which reaches far beyond the... Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2005 by Emile Lucien
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - Epic
In simple words this book is in Epic proportions. Questions constantely urupt as the teeange story of one young man is peeled back leading up to its ultimate climax. Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2003 by Ginger
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