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.