Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Review: A Beutiful Place to Die

TitleA Beautiful Place to Die: A Novel
AuthorMalla Nunn
Tagssouth africa, mystery, apartheid

This is the first novel of a woman filmmaker born in Swaziland and now living in Australia. It is set in South Africa in the 1950s, when the laws of apartheid were new and regimented strictly the amount of contact that whites, blacks, colored, and Indians could have with each other, as well as where each could live and work.

The Afrikaner police captain of the small town of Jacob's Rest, on the border of South Africa and Mozambique, is murdered. Detective Emmanuel Cooper, who is English, is ordered to investigate. Was Captain Pretorius the upstanding citizen he seemed to be with a solid marriage? Could he have been killed by smugglers, or by a communist agitator, or one of his five contentious sons? All of these are possibilities, and Cooper means to find the truth even in the face of Security Forces determined to find radicals responsible.

Malla Nunn shows considerable talent in her first novel. She's a filmmaker, and it shows in her ability to evoke the beautiful landscapes of South Africa. She has as well a sure touch with her characters, whatever their color or status. Through the characters and the plot, she depicts the brutality and rigidity of apartheid, and how frequently people crossed its lines and the consequences of doing so. Americans reading this novel will find the book an excellent depiction of a time and place that are strange, and yet has painful echos of our own times of deadly prejudices.

The cover blurb says that Nunn is working on her second novel. It should be one to watch for.
PublicationAtria (no date), Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication dateno date
ISBN1416586202 / 9781416586203

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