Absolution Paperback – 1 Mar 2013
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Absolution is a bold calling card from a major new writer * Independent on Sunday, 'Books of the Year' * Patrick Flanery is an exceptionally gifted novelist, and he is just getting started -- Philip Gourevitch * New Yorker * Flanery's portrayal of South Africa is explosively powerful... An exceptionally intelligent, multi-layered novel encompassing politics, history, a gripping storyline and complex characters. It has absorbing depictions of grief, guilt, parenthood and sibling rivalry, and is beautifully written... Absolution is an exceptional book. * Independent * A taut literary thriller set in South Africa... A very clever, beautifully written book where the reader is constantly adjusting to nothing being as it seems. * Daily Mail * Compelling... At times, Flanery's prose evokes Graham Greene... A literary thriller whose writing is consistently first class. * Observer * Gripping... The prose surges with enjoyable debate about the slipperiness of truth, the nature of forgiveness... Impressive * Sunday Telegraph *
'A wonderfully constructed and gripping novel about betrayal and shadows in South Africa' AS Byatt, Guardian, 'Books of the Year'
Following the critical acclaim for his astonishing debut novel, Flanery has confirmed himself as one of the brightest rising literary stars
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Top customer reviews
Flanery writes well, and has created a great character in Clare Wald: ageing, cantankerous, touchy, consumed with a sense of self-guilt. While the country attempts to work through the guilt of its past in the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so Clare seeks her own redemption through her relationships with Sam, her writing and her children.
This isn't a polemic, and there's a nice light touch over some of the politics: Sam's visit to Robben Island, for example, makes only brief mentions of its `most famous prisoner' without bashing us over the head with the obvious points. There are also some horrific imaginings of the plight of political prisoners which haunt after the end of the book.
Yet, for all the good stuff, I ended this book feeling a little unsatisfied. The issue, especially, of the overlapping of political and personal motives, where the political might, in fact, be an ambiguous excuse for the personal, reminded me irretrievably of Graham Greene's The Quiet American set in Vietnam where a similar point is dramatized with, arguably, a tighter focus and far more impact.
I'm sorry if I sound overly negative and do want to stress that this is an ambitious, nuanced and intelligent read in lots of ways - it just wasn't the blow-away 5-star read that I had expected.
"Absolution" is a novel full of vivid and often monstrous characters: Sam imagines Clare as 'half-ogre, half-mother, denying and giving, bad breast and good breast', and Clare describes Laura as 'a holy fire, a flame of purgation running across this land, charring the blonde grass black'. Besides Clare and Laura there is Bernard, a grotesque man who horribly neglects his orphaned charge and Nora, Clare's sister and perhaps the most unpleasant character of the book (if you are to believe Clare...). Compared to such characters Sam seems passive and uncertain, driven by a desire not to cause offence - however he has his own secrets.
Flanery's debut novel presents a complex picture of South Africa during and after Apartheid. Sam thinks Clare portrays the new South Africa as 'a waking nightmare of exploitation and corruption and hideous beauty', and Flanery does present a nightmarish world of poverty and wealth, where the wealthy have barricaded themselves in secure compounds, unable to trust any of their fellow citizens. He also manages to present its 'hideous beauty', vividly evoking the landscape and flora of the place. Flanery himself is American, but the reviews I have read from the South African press have praised his description of the country.
"Absolution" is a multi-layered multi-narrative book in which there are few absolute truths or moral certainties; it is also a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating read.
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