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The Boy Next Door [Paperback]

Irene Sabatini
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
Price: £8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

15 April 2010

Winner of the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers

Two days after I turned fourteen the son of our neighbour set his stepmother alight.

Or so Lindiwe Bishop believes, though eighteen months later the charges against Ian McKenzie are dropped and he returns home, full of charm and swagger.

Intrigued, Lindiwe strikes up a covert friendship with the mysterious white boy next door. As a bond grows between them, they cannot foreseee how severely it will be tested in the years ahead - by secrets and by a world that wants nothing more than to divide them.

Vividly evoking Zimbabwe's slide from independence into chaos, THE BOY NEXT DOOR tells an engrossing tale about what it means to witness, change, love and remain whole when all around you is falling apart.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (15 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340918837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340918838
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'One of the most engaging novels about inter-racial love to be published this century ... entertaining, ambitious and packed with news from elsewhere, leavened by the precious optimism of youth. Don't miss it.' (Amanda Craig, Independent)

What a worthy winner of the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers. This is an exuberant, tender and often humorous love story...Irene Sabatini is a born writer, and she has told a completely engrossing story which combines brilliantly realised fictional characters as well as evoking the only too real sad degradation of a once-thriving country. (Carla McKay, Daily Mail)

A fine and accomplished first novel...full of understanding, insight and powerful beauty (Alexander Lucie-Smith, Tablet)

A tender, powerful debut, this story makes an indelible imprint (Easy Living)

Irene Sabatini's captivating first novel, THE BOY NEXT DOOR, offers readers a rare and often painfully honest glimpse into life in post-independent Zimbabwe. And yet there is much light and hope and yes, love - genuine and hard-earned - in this book as well. A true pleasure. (Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo)

Book Description

A powerful love story set in post-independence Zimbabwe as it slides towards chaos, by an exciting new African writer.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but some reservations! 5 July 2010
I found this a difficult book to review. Set in the newly-formed Zimbabwe, it is essentially a love story between a 'coloured' Zimbabwe girl and a white 'Rhodie'. Bound by a tragedy in their youth, we follow their relationship in the burgeoning Zimbabwe with all its hopes, then descent into brutality, prejudice and corruption.

I found the book very hard to get into and there were times at the beginning when I really didn't think I could carry on with it. There was so much history, politics and tribal allegiances which were difficult to sort out and I found the Zimbabwean slang very difficult. A glossary would have helped. Perhaps if I had known more about the internal politics and various factions I might have found it easier.

Having said that, from page 150 I became engossed in the story and found the main characters very believable. So 3 stars for the first part, and 5 for the second, so will settle for 4!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully evocative debut 10 Feb 2010
This is an accomplished, convincing and highly readable debut novel. In a crowded market this book stands out both for its unusual setting - Zimbabwe in the years following independence - and for its sure handling, a keenly observed story by a writer who clearly knows the world she describes and who is obviously passionate about all her characters.

Lindiwe and Ian are the protagonists, neighbouring teenagers who inhabit very different worlds, she a black Zimbabwean, he a 'Rhodie' with the attitudes of a ruling elite. A terrible event brings them to each other's attention, and through the years their relationship develops from immature curiosity to - well you'll just have to read it to find out exactly what. Suffice to say each has a profound effect on the other as their paths cross and veer apart while their country goes through increasingly troubled times.

This is described as a love story in promotion and it's certainly that. However I felt it was so much more and this description didn't do the book full justice. It's about love, yes, but love in a world undergoing wider turmoil as the Mugabe government, widely approved initially as a model of African democracy, descends into a regime of tribalism, paranoia and fear. However while the political situation touches the worlds of these characters it's not central, just as in most people's lives; this is certainly a novel about people and not politics.

It's to Sabatini's immense credit that she breathes life into all her characters, with even comparatively minor figures fully rounded and believable. Lindiwe's family are convincingly drawn, with subtlety and persuasive detail.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly moving experience! 3 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that actually add something to your life and thinking, especially if, like me, you start reading it with nothing more than a vague idea of where Zimbabwe is. The more I read, the more I found literally absorbed in a world that, despite being so far from mine, never appeared so close. This book is been a reading and a cultural experience, who brought me through some of the most significant moments in recent Zimbabwean history with such a great poignancy it's not easy to explain. A book captivating and entertaining, but at the same time deep and meaningful, written in such a moving plain and straightforward language which can't possibly miss your soul. True, at the beginning you might find slightly confused in front of political facts you don't know anything about, but there is nothing that a quick look at wikipedia can't help sorting out. And as far as the slang words are concerned, they're fully part of the exotic spell this book will cast on you...Ian's lingo is absolutely irresistible!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so keen - I'm sorry! 3 Jan 2011
I always hate being the voice of dissent, and I do agree with previous reviewers that this is a very accomplished novel, but it just didn't engage or move me.
My partner is Zimbabwean, so I expected to be engrossed, and the political backdrop is interesting, but I didn't believe in the characters and found them generally cold and distant.
It reminded me of Linda Grant's novel 'When I lived in Modern Times' actually - a novel which portrayed beautifully the terrible political situation in Israel- but which just didn't work for me on a human level.
So, I wouldn't tell you not to buy it - many others have clearly had a very different experience - but I can only tell you I struggled to make myself care and finish it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ''Lekker!'' 30 May 2010
By Elka
What I love about reading is that you can pick up a book you've never heard of, full of a place and time you know nothing about and by the end of it have a real feel for the people and their lives.
A small mystery , an unlikely seemingly impossible relationship and real characters set amid the turmoil of post-war Rhodesia/Zimbabwe sets the scene for a very memorable book. This book was 'lekker'!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall a good read ***contains spoilers*** 24 July 2012
I found this book in a holiday home in Croatia and didn't have anything else to read but I think I stumbled on a near gem. I liked the characters and found them believable and, like the other reviewers, found the depiction of Zimbabwe's slide into chaos fascinating and chilling. My reservations were with some of the plotting. Maybe I read it too quickly but I thought the 'murder mystery' element of it was ultimately unsatisfying and maybe even superfluous. The sudden appearance of David felt a bit clunky too although it was more than made up for by the rest of his story. I would definitely recommend this book, and perhaps I should re read some parts of it again too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral romance
Being written in the first person gives the reader insight into the main character's mind, although I found it limiting at times. Not much description to create mental pictures. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Hilary - Bradford
5.0 out of 5 stars The boy next door.
I heard this book being reviewed on radio 4's "A Good Read" and at the time it was the 10th anniversary of the protest of Andy Flower (the English cricket coach), himself a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mulbarton bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
I bought this book after hearing it reviewed recently on radio 4 - I have recommended it for a group discussion in a reading group I attend - we will be discussing this in June
Published 18 months ago by joan barton
5.0 out of 5 stars Zimbabwe truths
Lovely to read a book from an intelligent ladies perspective, outlining her growing up in post-Rhodesian Zim. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Kev Johnson
3.0 out of 5 stars 937elizabethj
Good background of the history of Zimbabwe, which was partly why I bought it, but didn't find the story compelling
Published 18 months ago by Elizabeth Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Love in a Time of Crisis
Irene Sabatini's award-winning first novel is set in Zimbabwe during the 1980s and 1990s, opens with Mugabe's coming to power, and shows the effect of his regime, and of Zimbabwe's... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into real issues and a good story too
I heard a review of this on the radio which described it as having 'racist' overtones which were hard to stomach. How mistaken and pusilaminous. Read more
Published 19 months ago by crazysalad
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
I found the book very enjoyable but felt very frustrated by the lead characters ability to just take it on the chin, as though she wasn't worth any more .
Published 19 months ago by waterskiing woman
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep powerful and complex !
I loved this book because it takes 'head on' issues of racism 'white privilege' and Zimbabwe's struggles. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Natalia Dawkins
2.0 out of 5 stars The Boy Next Door
I did not enjoy this book, poor writing skills and use of language, could have been told in half the book, even then would not have appealed to me.
Published 21 months ago by kz spark
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