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Who Killed Piet Barol? Hardcover – 8 Sep 2016

4.7 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (8 Sept. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1474602339
  • ISBN-13: 978-1474602334
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Utterly entrancing...Richard Mason has created an epic narrative in which human failure and decency are opposing forces. Mason entwines the divided racial strands of South Africa in 1914, in a riveting tale seen through the eyes of both colonial whites and tribal black South Africans, as their paths converge in a search for survival and a better life. The novel is written by a master of prose who instinctively knows how to make the reader turn pages fast but also sets in motion trains of thought which demand slow, profound analysis as a seemingly playful lie spirals into an explosion of greed, lust and ruthless ambition. Set against the backdrop of ancient forests, this novel also explores the magic of nature and spirituality, and how man's noblest and most ignoble aims can sometimes co-exist in the same space.... I wanted to re-reread it immediately. Richard Mason is a distinctive voice in British fiction whose elegant prose has marked him out as one of the outstanding writers of his generation (Geordie Greig, Editor, Mail on Sunday)

A triumph of a novel. It's a book that you can't help being totally caught up in...powerfully evocative and wholly absorbing. Human passions, the lust for power and status, and the inevitable fallibilities of man and beast are drawn with exquisite detail. It's a book that works on many, many levels, and lingers with you gently for many days after you reach its extraordinary end... (Gill Penlington, Director of News and Event Programming CNN London)

A stunning tour de force that will leave you gripped, moved and inspired. A richly atmospheric historical novel that says much about the way we live now, Who Killed Piet Barol? is a book to read again and again: a compelling story written in luminous prose with vividly-realised characters. This is a book by a serious writer at the height of his powers (Alex Preston, author of This Bleeding City)

This is a gorgeous treat of a novel, full of contradictions and subtleties (THE TIMES)

This is one of the finest novels I have read for many years (Cape Times)

Mason elegantly rotates between characters with wisdom, pathos and real humour (PRESS ASSOCIATION)

Mason continues to earn his reputation with exquisitely crafted sentences and a dizzying knack for storytelling (Kirkus Reviews)

With echoes of Paul Theroux's Mosquito Coast, Mason unspools a story rich in detail and populated with deeply flawed characters whose lives intersect in the once-pristine forest that inspires acts sacred and profane. Mason handles multiple story lines with the élan of a seasoned raconteur (Publishers Weekly)

This is a highly original book. Part magic realism, part fable, part history and wholly engrossing (The Times, Books of the Year)

Exquisite and gripping (Observer, Books of the Year)

In elegant, sensuous prose ... Mason imbues the forest with life, taking readers inside the psyche of each tree, animal, or insect ... Mason's previous novels have been long-listed for the IMPAC, Sunday Times Literary, and Lambda Literary awards. This profoundly tragic tale, in which colonialism battles tribal customs, and divisions of race and class sow distrust, should put him over the top (Library Journal, Starred Review)

A perfect example of what makes Mason such a superb writer; his novels tell the rare and profound kind of truth that only stellar fiction can (Pretoria News)

This riveting tale is set in South Africa in 1914 as a world war looms, and is told from the perspective of both colonial whites and tribal blacks. (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

An ambitious, elegantly written novel with a touch of magic (National Book Review)

Book Description

Richard Mason's page-turning sequel to HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER, the continued adventures of the inimitable Piet Barol . . .

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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By A keen reader VINE VOICE on 23 Dec. 2016
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A well-written, very enjoyable story. Mason describes the characters so well - both Piet, his wife and their fellow white settlers, and the black residents of what will become South Africa. They call the whites "the Strange Ones." The book is particularly interesting because it is set at the time of the outbreak of the Great War. It also describes the effects of what the British did to blacks in SA - but always concentrates on individuals, and doesn't make sweeping cultural observations. The book has Piet as a central character, not as "the" central person and the title is simply stupid. Most of the story is about the individuals, their customs and culture of the Xhosa and how they intertwine with Piet's goals of getting a big mahogany tree for his furniture-making business. There are many facets to the story. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is the sequel to the author’s History of a Pleasure Seeker, published in 2010, which focussed on the hedonistic life of Piet Barol in Amsterdam in the early years of the twentieth-century. It is now 1914 and Piet and his wife Stacey are struggling with a furniture business in Cape Town. Their creditors are closing in, and the Barols come up with an idea to save the business, which involves Piet making a trip with two black South Africans to find a source of mahogany in a distant forest, as Europe distantly collapses into war. The story then changes tack, and centres on the Bantu village where Piet is taken by one of his companions Ntsina in order to buy timber. Richard Mason writes of the (to us) superstitious, spirit-filled world of the villagers and attempts to show how they would view the world and arrival of the white man (one of the Strange Ones, as they are known). Their worlds come together when Piet starts to fell and then make furniture from the Bantu’s sacred trees in the forest.
It is a well narrated and absorbing story, though the constant switch from the white Western mentality and the black Bantu state of mind is quite destabilising – which is most probably precisely the author’s intention. Without giving anything away, the author’s choice of the title is a bit of a puzzle as well!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a most unusual story which is about a man and wife who assume a French aristocratic title which they have not got legitimate claim on. He is an exceptional wood carver and designer of furniture set in Africa. Starting just before the first world war. They quickly find that they are in trouble financially and only thru good luck they find a solution to their problems. This involves them living separately for quite a while. This is where the involvement of others is introduced into the tale. In fact a great deal of the story involves the native population, their ways and customs which I found fascinating and took the book to another level. Piet seems to be one of the only persons at that time to treat the native peoples in a fair and equal way. Way ahead of his time. Part of the book is centered around the locals lives and traditions and you get the distinctive feeling that the author knows his subject well.
As In all societies the lack of understanding between cultures leads to tension and this can be very destructive. Fortunately this doesn't happen. All is brought to a conclusion in the final few pages and the title of the book is fulfilled. Fairly graphic in places but part of life.
There is a section at the front which gives the names of the locals and bit about them as the author uses their African names. Very useful as a reference if you put the book down for a few days.
I enjoyed the story and the way its written and the fact it's about a section of life that I have only been slightly acquainted with over the years.
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Format: Hardcover
The more books I read, the more grateful I feel that I can read. And that I can read in English.
I’m Ukrainian; I arrived in South Africa in 2002 at age 24. It soon became my new country where I felt at home from the first day. And what a special opportunity to learn some history of South Africa from a dynamic story, like - Who Killed Piet Barol? by Richard Mason. His writing reaches the level of a pink diamond quality.

The young and talented author is a great believer in the power of fiction to tell the truth. And being a believer myself in what you believe is what you receive, the experience of this book fulfills senses beyond expectations.

Who Killed Piet Barol? is a unique add to your reading menu. It proved to be a tantalizing saga of sex, lust, love and money, as fresh in 1914 as in 2017. You’ll get the caramel touch of romanticism, spiced by the grand details of colonial life amongst Europeans, served with a salted layer of the majesty of African natives culture, whipped into a sour race discrimination, and polished with a bitter truth of history.

Who Killed Piet Barol? has a magic power of a time- traveling machine. Get the book and enjoy the ride. Pleasure guaranteed!
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Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book that captures the moment when the Native Land Act grabbed land from the blacks and forced them to work in the mines. The hero Piet Borol wants to exploit the black Xhosa tribe and use their ancestral trees to make furniture and his reputation. But the magic of the forest works on him. From no more to him than anecdotes to recount at the bar in the Mount Nelson, his black workers take on powerful personalities that in the end capture his loyalty. He finally sees them as people and not just a pair of willing hands. The depiction of his failing marriage is also moving. Mason's gift is to bring alive the forest and the Xhosa village. I was utterly engrossed in its dramas of witch craft and lust. I was also mesmerised by the characterisation of the animals. The spider musing on whether to eat her tentative mate had me bursting out loud with laughter. This is a wonderfully rich and engrossing book. It is also brave and totally original - a rare accomplishment.
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