Friday, 14 October 2016

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor 
First published in South Africa in 2001 by Kwela Books.

One of my WorldReads from South Africa.

I registered my copy of this book at

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
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How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'The last time Silas Ali encountered the Lieutenant, Silas was locked in the back of a police van and the Lieutenant was conducting a vicious assault on Lydia, his wife. When Silas sees him again, by chance, twenty years later, crimes from the past erupt into the present, splintering the Ali's fragile family life.
Bitter Fruit is the story of Silas and Lydia, their parents, friends and colleagues, as their lives take off in unexpected directions and relationships fracture under the weight of history. It is also the story of their son Mickey, a student and sexual adventurer, with an enquiring mind and a strong will. An unforgettably fine novel about a brittle family in a dysfunctional society.'

I am finding Bitter Fruit a difficult book to review mainly, I think, because despite striving to understand the Ali family, their actions were frequently too far removed from my own life experience to be able to empathise. Lydia's rape, while not graphically described, is a dark, brooding presence throughout the novel, one single vicious act which is symbolic of the many similar assaults inflicted during South Africa's apartheid years. The unravelling of its aftermath took a while to pull me in and it wasn't until the second half of Bitter Fruit that I found the book strongly maintained my interest. That said, this is a worthwhile book to read! It is a slow burn of a piece; gently paced prose in sharp contrast to the violence and anger it describes.

Dangor evokes South Africa at perhaps the second of its greatest recent turning points when the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is about to submit its report to the nation and another president will replace Mandela. On the face of it, the country is at peace with itself and set to progress into the future and the same applies to the Ali family who are also, on the face of it, a closely-tied unit. Silas' legal profession will remain in demand as his TRC work is coming to a close and son Mikey is set for college and a career of his own. But it just takes one chance encounter to release deeply-buried memories and the whole house of cards slowly collapses in on itself. The question of Bitter Fruit is whether what is true for one family within South Africa might also become truth for the country herself. Is the legacy of decades of brutal suppression and oppression too much to be overcome?

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Achmat Dangor / Contemporary fiction / Books from South Africa

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