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Kings Of The Water [Paperback]

Prof Mark Behr
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

5 Nov 2009
When Michiel Steyn returns to the family farmstead in South Africa for his mother's funeral, he has spent close to half his lifetime abroad. But even after fifteen years' absence, neither Michiel nor those he left behind have truly come to terms with his terrible flight from the farm they called Paradise. As Michiel submits himself to the rituals of mourning and remembrance in the small town and on the land where he became a man, all that has lain undisturbed for years is brought to light. A father's implacable fury and a brother's violent death, the loss of a child, the betrayal of love and the ugly memory of the dying days of apartheid all come between the prodigal and forgiveness. Michiel finds that he must confront not only his grief for his mother's passing but the painful truth of his own transgressions. Elegiac and chilling, poignant and profoundly thoughtful, Kings of the Water is at once a lament both personal and political, and a meditation on the potency of reconciliation.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (5 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034911370X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349113708
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 811,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Mark Behr meshes the personal and political with a novel about forgiveness and reconciliation . . . this unsparing novel captures the internal stuggles of a man in crisis, and a post-apartheid world still circled by security fence s' Emma Hagestadt, Independent (‘Superbly written, thoughtful and unflinching, this terrific novel explores the mentality of the Afrikaner male with wonderfully poetic use of the Afrikaans language’)

Kate Saunders, The Times

Book Description

* A beautifully written story which brings into focus the personal - a man's reconciliation with his father - and the big-picture-political: how South Africa comes to terms with its past

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece 2 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book offers you the experience of a spectacular rollercoaster. There's only one condition: you have to read carefully. Reading this book is like putting together a breathtaking jigsaw puzzle. When you succeed, it's wonderful; when you're too hasty, it's a pity.
Michiel Steyn returns, after an absence of 15 years, to South Africa for the funeral of his mother. Everything, everyone causes memories: an obstinate father, an abandoned lover, a dead brother, the situation and the uncertain future of his own family and the workers' families on the farm. A government can abolish the laws of apartheid, but a people's mentality doesn't change that easy.
One by one, the author offers you tiny elements of the puzzle. Only a fortuitous mentioned name can be enough to predict strong experiences. They come, but you have to be patient and careful. Sometimes you think Mark Behr can't succeed in building up the composition till the end. But he does. Very logically he describes how the past is retold and unveiled and how simple words make it possible to go deeper in the confessions. Reconciliation isn't that easy. But after 24 hours the necessary steps are made to go on.
This is a delicious, well-balanced book. You should read it more than once and continue to discover that this wonderfully composed novel constantly opens new views to understand Michiel Steyn's life and the evolution in South-Africa.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Behr's Kings of thE Water 1 Dec 2009
This is a beautifully written, moving and unsettling work of fiction by one of the best writers I have read in years. In this work, Behr's themes, passions and love of words comes acutely into focus giving us a powerful look at race, gender and sexuality in the Western world. A young man returns to his homeland (South Africa) to bury his mother. He leaves in San Francisco his lover, his current life and refinds loves of the past, his aging father, the blacks who have sustained his Afrikaner familyKings of the Waterfor generations, and the community in which he grew up and from which he ran away. What ensues is often heartbreaking, hilarious and even hopeful. The book is full of surprises and thoughts about the unexpected that awaits us all. I highly recommend it to everyone -who should also read Behr's earlier works "The Smell of apples" and Embrace.

Sandra Kiersky, Ph.D.
Santa Fe, New Mexico and Manhattan, New York
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradys Re-imagined 3 Feb 2010
Kings of the Water is a richly textured novel about forgiveness, reconciliation, and the many ways people face these challenging life issues. Mark Behr writes with a style that draws out complexity from every sentence, phrase, and word while still offering easy access to characters, place, and story. His language is the language of global consciousness. He fluently captures words, phrases, and nuances from languages around the world. And with English, the language of one of the most dominant forces in our world, he writes with control, depth, and beauty.

The story is about connections. Behr writes with a deep understanding of how we are connected to others through reasons of birth, love, desire, manipulation, geography, economics, sociology, and politics. He shows how loving and caring relationships can be, but he also brings them to account. Connections, in Behr's novel, are ripe with consequences. Beautiful, loving, intimate moments are rendered in scenes lush with imagery and poignant with emotion. But even these can be tinged with pain, anger, resentment, brutality, and disdain, and Behr doesn't hesitate to show the devastating impact these forces have on the heart, mind, body, and spirit.

The main character is a young man in his early thirties attempting to put the pieces of himself into some kind of order. And yes, he does find this an impossible, but on going and worthwhile task.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as always! 23 Dec 2009
This is Mark Behr's third book, and it is as beautiful as the other two. First, his much acclaimed "The Smell of Apples". Then "Embrace", a masterpiece, I have read it twice. Believe me if I say I rarely fall in love with a book to the point of reading it again.
"Embrace" is a magical book, it asks to be read twice. Just when you reach the end you feel the urge to start again. And I did it, to no regret. I mention this because "Kings of the Water" works the same magic (at least for me). I believe the explanation resides in the literary style Mark Behr employs. His way of writing leads you here and there in time and space. At the beginning, especially in "Embrace", it seems you're lost in a strange maze of episodes, at times completely unrelated to each other. However, these episodes are always well defined and complete in themselves. They are never disappointing, they never let you down. I might say they are like pieces of a jigsaw, but meaningful pieces, with complete sense. As you go on reading, the links between these episodes become clearer and clearer, and a bigger picture unfolds in front of you, opens out its wings, and becomes manifest. In the end you get the whole picture, completed in all its details. And what a picture it is!
For this reason I assume that the urge to jump from the last page to the first one, and start reading his books anew, is so compelling. You don't want to leave the dancing hall, you really want more of it.
Another forte of Mark Behr is his ability to depict the most common scenes of everyday life in such a way that they bring back to consciousness what we already have in our minds, maybe forgotten or willingly displaced, but still there. He plays the chords of our own experiences.
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