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Fantastic readWas this review helpful?
Reviewed by Taralyn Bro from East London, South Africa on 01 September 2005
125 of 252 people found the following review helpful:
Too often, memoirs of lives lived under the oppression of South African apartheid are heavy and depressing.
Not the bitter-sweet Blood Orange by South African author Troy Blacklaws.
With effortless prose written mostly in the first person as ‘Gecko’, Blacklaws shares his own white South African experience from his childhood in rural Natal, through his perilous high school years, through to forced conscription and, ultimately, his quest for freedom.
The content is a mixture of real memories and imaginings of this talented author who now lives and teaches in Germany.
At times bitingly funny and then suddenly sad, Blacklaws captures the essence of his many vivid characters by skillfully weaving in details that make them, and the landscape they live in, unforgettable.
Part of the book is set in East London which adds special interest for the local reader.
Following the remarkable, and deserved, success of his debut novel, Karoo Boy, Blacklaws has once again produced work of the highest standard. I unreservedly recommend Blood Orange.
like an African snakeWas this review helpful?
Reviewed by Jude from Frankfurt, Germany on 31 August 2005
111 of 235 people found the following review helpful:
Blood Orange is Troy Blacklaws’ second novel and is every bit as powerful as his first, Karoo Boy. Blood Orange is set in South Africa in the 1970s and describes life there as seen through the eyes of a young white boy, Gecko.
The book describes Gecko’s life from when he is a child until, as a young adult, he is forced to flee South Africa. The style is deeply personal and intimate. Each short chapter is a snapshot of Gecko’s life – it’s a bit like looking through someone’s old photo album.
We travel through Gecko’s childhood – his carefree days on a farm, his schooldays when he is baited for being a ‘niggerlover’ and his first awkward but humorous attempts at relationships with girls. I particularly enjoyed the references to 70s music and films which took me back to my own youth!
Throughout the book, however, the theme of apartheid is ever present, gliding through the pages like an African snake. Gecko’s awareness of South African politics grows from puzzlement as a small child when he wonders why blacks and whites are often separated into a consciousness of the horror that was apartheid.
Blacklaws’ style is finely-honed and full of intensely powerful images. The heat, sights and sounds of Africa are all vividly there for the reader, as is Blacklaws’ love of Africa. I forced myself to read Blood Orange more slowly than at my usual breakneck speed in order to savour the depth of the writing. It’s definitely a book to read twice – a gem.
An African EducationWas this review helpful?
Reviewed by Mr Geoffrey Roberts from Frankfurt, Germany on 22 June 2005
111 of 238 people found the following review helpful:
One time I jump from the wall and dart in but slide on glossy dung, under the bull’s hanging balls. The bull stamps me into the peanut butter of dung and mud a few times before a Xhosa man vaults the gate and tugs the bull off me by his ring. (Blood Orange, p 61)
Some of Ernest Hemingway’s early stories deal with the theme of boys growing up in an environment full of danger. They are confronted with blood and fear and pain, but they suffer in silence. A Hemingway hero takes it on the chin, wipes the sweat from his brow and goes off to die in a just war.
There is a lot of blood spilt in Blood Orange. The title itself echoes the book’s recurring images of injury and death. The blood of animals and birds, casually killed by boys, Gecko’s own blood, hurt at play or mobbed by a rugby thug in an outbreak of locker room violence – he loses a lot of blood, does Gecko. The style reminds one of the early Hemingway – the best passages in The Sun also Rises, for instance, or Up in Michigan; Blacklaws writes with Hemingwayesque, pared-down, laconical sentences and pictures brilliantly the emotional turmoil in the young boy’s mind as he tries to cope with the conflicts and ambiguities that shape his life.
Blood Orange is a Bildungsroman, a fascinating portrait of a boy growing up in a society divided into masters and servants, with a conservative upper class calling the plays and a black, or Indian, or ‘Cape coloured’ majority, getting ready to unleash anarchy into their perfect world. The story begins in the South Africa of Apartheid in the late sixties, when the Boers still felt secure but were beginning to feel the pinch of sanctions and wonder what would happen when hell broke loose.
The boy is called Gecko. He has a brother called Zane and a nanny called Beauty, and they live on a secure white Anglo-Saxon protestant island in a black South African sea. The story unfolds in short episodes, each with its own colours, sounds, emotions. Each is a crafted portrait, like an impressionist painting that reveals its depths to the observer from a distance.
It's a great book, superbly crafted, not a word too long.