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A Blade of Grass
Synopses & Reviews
Set on the border between South Africa and an unnamed neighboring country in the 1970s, A Blade of Grass is a suspenseful novel about a bitter struggle over a small farm and its dramatic consequences for two women, one white and one black.
The story centers on Märit Laurens, a young woman of British descent, recently orphaned and newly wed, who comes to live with her husband, Ben, on their newly purchased farm. Shortly after her arrival, violence strikes at the heart of Märit's world, leaving her alone and isolated. Devastated, confused, but determined to run the farm on her own, Märit finds herself in a simmering tug of war between the local Afrikaner community that surrounds the farm and the black workers who live on it, both vying for control over the land in the wake of tragedy.
Märit's only supporter is her black housekeeper, Tembi, who, like Märit, is alone in the world. The women are determined to hold on to the farm, but the quietly encroaching civil war brings out conflicting loyalties that turn the fight for the farm into a fight for their lives.
A Blade of Grass is a wrenching story of friendship and betrayal and of the trauma of the land that has shaped post-colonial Africa. Thrilling to read and morally complex in its message, it offers a fresh, profound, and emotionally immediate perspective on what it means to be black or white in a country where both races live and feel entitlement.
"Lewis DeSoto has written a splendid first novel that illuminates quintessential issues of the 20th century which promise to shape the 21st — race and the lingering aftermath of colonialism. Moreover, A Blade of Grass is a downright compelling read. DeSoto is a welcome and dynamic new voice on the literary scene." Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction
"DeSoto writes evocatively about the land. His characters, no matter how portentous, inhabit a wild and natural country that seems both authentic and tragic." Toronto Globe and Mail
"A significant work of post-colonial literature and a gripping read. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it soon, on award-nominations lists....a wonderous thing indeed." Montreal Gazette
"DeSoto is both an award-winning writer (for his essays and stories) and an accomplished painter (he has shown his work in galleries across the country). Both talents are evident in this bleak, vivid first novel." Vancouver Sun
"If Lewis DeSoto's debut novel, A Blade of Grass, suggests anything beyond the pleasure of its own success, it's that South Africa seems to be doing a little better than we are with respect to fiction that forces readers to face up to the great toll of internal national conflicts.... Marit's life is something readers will remember." Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"DeSoto writes lyrically about the African countryside, and he delicately reveals the nuances of interracial sexual attraction." Tony Eprile, The New York Times
"This fine first novel is tension-filled and swiftly paced." Barbara Love, Library Journal
"A Blade of Grass never falters. It is quite simply a master work by a mature and powerful new voice." Ottawa Citizen
A bitter struggle over a small farm in South Africa has dramatic consequencesfor two women — one white and one black.
About the Author
Lewis DeSoto was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to a family that arrived from Europe in the eighteenth century. His writing has been published in numerous journals, and he was awarded the Books in Canada/Writers' Union Short Prose Award. A past editor of Literary Review of Canada, Lewis DeSoto lives with his wife in Normandy and Toronto.
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