Top positive review
Masterful storytelling - a real joy to read!
8 September 2016
I pre-ordered Who Killed Piet Barol as I read History of a Pleasure seeker last year. The latter being the first Richard Mason book I ever read, but not the last as I have since gone on to read The Drowning People and The Lighted Rooms. What I find so appealing about Mason’s work is that he is a master storyteller, and in this latest novel the spellbinding story does not disappoint: it is utterly compelling.
I know very little about South Africa and the origins of apartheid, but Mason has deftly and very cleverly weaved a narrative that brings us to the heart of that historical period and how white settlers in the Eastern Cape began to enact laws that disenfranchised the indigenous people from their lands and deceived them for profit.
In Piet Barol we have a very sexy and canny character who finds himself an agent of this disenfranchisement. The candid descriptions of his sexual voracity alone are both titillating and highly entertaining, but more so is the story of his moral and emotional unraveling. I also loved how Mason describes the forest of Gwadana and its creatures, whose consciousness is beautifully rendered. We see through the eyes of forest leopards and slithering snakes, and this multitude of perspectives means the reader is able to witness a single scene from several nuanced angles, the effects of which are unusually gripping, as I have not encountered this almost lyrical approach to prose writing in other novels.
I won’t give the plot away and reveal who eventually killed Piet Barol, but I will say the end of the book builds to a dramatic and suspenseful climax that was both unexpected and very moving. Wonderful stuff.