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October: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Zoe Wicomb
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Mercia Murray is a woman of fifty-two years who has been left.” Abandoned by her partner in Scotland, where she has been living for twenty-five years, Mercia returns to her homeland of South Africa to find her family overwhelmed by alcoholism and secrets. Poised between her life in Scotland and her life in South Africa, she recollects the past with a keen sense of irony as she searches for some idea of home. In Scotland, her life feels unfamiliar; her apartment sits empty. In South Africa, her only brother is a shell of his former self, pushing her away. And yet in both places she is needed, if only she could understand what for. Plumbing the emotional limbo of a woman who is isolated and torn from her roots, October is a stark and utterly compelling novel about the contemporary experience of an intelligent immigrant, adrift among her memories and facing an uncertain middle age.

With this pitch-perfect story, the “writer of rare brilliance” (The Scotsman) Zoë Wicomb—who received one of the first Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes for lifetime achievement—stands to claim her rightful place as one of the preeminent contemporary voices in international fiction.

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Product Description


An extraordinary writer, Zoë Wicomb has mined pure gold from that place [South Africa] seductive, brilliant, and precious, her talent glitters. --Toni Morrison

Wicomb contemplates the meaning of family, the limits of forgiveness, and the deep responsibilities of having children. The novel provides an insightful look at how memory is bound up with place, and at what it means to return home. --Publishers Weekly

Selected as a "must-read book". --Flavorwire

About the Author

Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer living in Glasgow, Scotland, where she is emeritus professor at the University of Strathclyde. She is the author of Playing in the Light and You Can t Get Lost in Cape Town (both The New Press, 2006 & 2000, both available from Turnaround) and The One That Got Away (The New Press, 2009). Along with James Salter and Tom McCarthy she was an inaugural winner of Yale's Windham Campbell Prize in fiction. Wicomb's fiction is taught at many universities in the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, and recently York University's English Department in collaboration with SOAS organised a conference on her work.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 411 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (4 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #303,921 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long-awaited 25 Jun. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Why so long between books? It is because Zoe Wicomb does not write lightly, though her style appears light and the narrative voice subtle, thoughtful, conveying a complex web of paradoxes, irony and sensibility that emanate from the complex, difficult, often exasperating experience of a South African woman who grew up in the Northern Cape in the apartheid era. Wicomb's work, her characters, are lovingly crafted, her use of language delicate and precise, embedded in the arid landscape and frugal lives, with little starbursts of beauty and wit, like the exotic chincherinchee and the kalkoentjies of Namaqualand. A consummate storyteller, Zoe Wicomb knows how to weave the mystery and pathos of her tale into the layers of histories, personal and territorial, conjuring the core colonial dramas of dispossession, suffering and struggle with the lightest of touches, so that her characters are not so much the victims of those cruel mores, as their living emanations, the poisoned fruits of a society with its roots in apartheid. Yet even as the reader gradually, painfully, discerns the sick truth, she is carried along by the artistry of the language and descriptions, the perceptive humanity of the narrative voice, the love for the people and place. These are what constitute the powerful undercurrent of universal significance that flows through all Wicomb's writing. I know of no living author who writes with such fine understanding, such mastery of language, such breadth of vision.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 20 May 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very enjoyable
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved sinking into this book and following its protagonist's experiences ... 14 Nov. 2014
By Softly, softly . . . - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved sinking into this book and following its protagonist's experiences as she returns to South Africa to find that the family entanglements she had left behind to work as a professor in Scotland are not that easily escaped. I especially liked the way her view of her less-educated sister-in-law evolves, and more broadly how she struggles to bring the two parts of her life and experience into relationship at long last. A quietly written, wry, and complex novel that will draw you in slowly and leave you with a surprising depth of feeling by the end.
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant novel of home and family 11 Jan. 2015
By Galuppi - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Except in her native South Africa, Zoe Wicomb belongs to a peculiar category: great little known writers. This oddity does not stem from the superb quality of her prose, her deeply probing depiction of her characters, or her embedding these characters in a complex, troubling historical context. All of these qualities are present in October, which however lacks a quality often present in her previous work: a demanding austerity. Like her previous work, the main character belongs to a subset of what the apartheid authorities called "colored"--a subset that includes in its origins the very people who inhabited the land before any foreigners came, and then intermingled their Khoi ancestry with Malaysian and other strands. This complicated racial origin matters less in October than in Wicomb's previous books.

October is a page-turner, with surprises that, as you read further, are not surprises but inevitable developments. Its compelling theme is "home," understood both as a place where one feels "at home" and as one's "family"--another word capable of multiple meanings. The main character grows up during apartheid in a god-forsaken rural area of South Africa, belonging to a poor family that values education. She gets her education and becomes an academic; then, escaping apartheid, she goes into exile in Scotland, where her life unrolls with great professional success, even as her marriage unravels. An urgent summons from "home" brings her back to the dour, limited small town of her childhood. Not only is she helpless to save her alcoholic brother but he and his family impute to her attitudes of superiority that are mostly untrue. Failing at "home," she returns to Scotland. There, if not "home," she is about to resume a career suitable to her temperament and intellect, and she finds friends who understand her. Perhaps, in the end, it is friends--and family, for those fortunate to have loving relatives--who create home.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I expected. 30 April 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
It really sounded like a great book, but I was very disappointed. For me it was very disjointed. The author jumps from place to place and from time to time which made it difficult to follow. And I hated the ending. I got it, just didn't like it. The characters were interesting and well developed with insight into two very different lifestyles and cultures.
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