There’s nothing worse than a reading slump and when you commit yourself to a project like this they inevitably happen. It is impossible to like something that you don’t feel like reading and from Matigari onwards (with the exception of Watchmen) this was happening. Unfortunately I’ve experienced this slump with every decade I’ve tackled and I’m waiting for at least one decade where I love every single book.
However once you get out of the slump it’s a great feeling. There was some light shining with The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman but now with Ancestral Voices I think the only way is upwards.
The is a family saga, much in the same line as both Garcia Marquez and Steinbeck. This means that there are elements of magic realism mixed with moments of stark realism. Oh yes there’s a character who shares my surname (Pisani) and considering that the book takes place in South Africa, I was greatly surprised to see this!
As I said the setting takes place in South Africa , on a farmland which has been owned by the Moolmans for a century. During these hundred years there have been killings, rebellions and ex communicated family members. The tragedy begins when one of the grandchildren falls down a boorhole and then shot in the process and a magistrate has to visit this family in order to see who is the culprit.
Due to the largeness of the Moolman’s this magistrate has to inspect the whole family tree and comes across some nasty surprises.
Murder mystery aside (we do find out who the killer is) van Heerdeen is presenting a South Africa where Apartheid is rife and mentalities are still to be adhered to, in fact the banished members of the family are the ones who went against convention and mingled with Africans. One character in the novel who fights for rights is seen as the biggest traitor of the Moolmans. So this is quite political, although it’s quite disguised in the beginning.
My only gripe about this book is that it is out of print, surely a novel of this magnitude should be widely available. Sometimes I don’t understand.