Top positive review
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Beautiful, fluid, haunting
on 10 May 2002
I read this book in one sitting; it really is so compelling. The writing is deliciously fluid, the words easily and perfectly chosen. The prose is spare and not one word is superfluous. The author's descriptive abilities are so well honed that you feel like you inhabit the pages; you can smell the dry, parched landscapes and feel the rising heat of the land. You experience the open space of the South African countryside and you are drawn into the closeted hothouse life of the girls' school. Sheila Kohler captures the adolescent confusion of growing up and trying to be grown up, of burgeoning sexuality and repression perfectly. The chain of events which befall the girls takes on a life of its own and rattle along at a fast pace.
The book is at times shocking, but completely believable and no details are spared regarding the girls' competitive brutality. She portrays their friendships in ripe detail, and I am sure that female readers in particular will be able to relate to the intensity and the many oddities of these young friendships. Their interaction with the unusual and charismatic teacher who is catalytic to events is well captured. I will not give any of the plot away, suffice it to say that you are kept reading until the very end for the denouement to reveal itself.
It is a book of contrasts, of immense joys and disappointments. Ultimately it is about coming to terms with our pasts and the secrets which haunt lives and bind people together.