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Skinner's Driftby Lisa Fugard
Synopses & Reviews
Ten years after leaving South Africa, the country of her birth and the place where her mother died, Eva van Rensburg returns to her dying father, a violent man whose terrible secret Eva has kept since she was a child.
In this beautiful first novel, Lisa Fugard paints a haunting portrait of a family careering toward disaster. She vividly describes the isolation of Eva's rebellious and lonely English mother; the desperation of her Afrikaner father as drought destroys his farm; the conflicts among the black farmworkers as the younger generation questions the loyalty and subservience of their elders; and the dangerous silence of a young girl who witnesses too much.
Like Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee, Fugard has written a profoundly moving family drama, subtly set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil. She moves with extraordinary agility between intimate and revelatory domestic scenes and the fiercely challenging land. This is a powerful story from a stunning new writer.
"A vivid sense of place and an effective dramatic arc distinguish this debut novel from the daughter of South African playwright Athol Fugard. After a 10-year absence — which saw the upheaval of her native country — 28-year-old Eva van Rensburg returns to Johannesburg from the U.S. to tend to her estranged, dying Afrikaner father, Martin. Springboarding off Eva's discovery of her deceased mother Lorraine's diaries, Fugard seamlessly flashes back to explore Eva's childhood on Skinner's Drift, the farm where she grew up. The characters and landscape come sharply to life: Lorraine's dissatisfaction, Martin's struggles to keep the farm afloat, the increased tensions as soldiers arrive and barricades are erected along the border with Botswana. At the heart of the story is young Eva and her relations with the black farmworkers. As Martin's violent tendencies intensify and Lorraine becomes increasingly unstable, the family fractures and Eva bears the brunt of Martin's actions — culminating in two horrifying, violent acts. When the adult Eva finally returns to the farm, she must determine how to finally face her father's terrible secret. Playing out this family drama in the broader context of race and class, Fugard captivates with this searing personal portrayal of the legacy of apartheid." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Set against the vivid landscape and wildlife of the African landscape, this first novel conveys a message of redemption and forgiveness that holds true whether it's concerning a country and its people or a father and his daughter." Library Journal
"Fugard's plot is gripping and her prose is effortless, but what is most impressive is her ability to effectively explore broad themes through a family story. A dazzling debut." Kirkus Reviews
"Fugard succeeds brilliantly....Worthy of Tolstoy." The New York Times Book Review
"Fugard's narrative of apartheid politics and family tragedy could not be more engrossing." Entertainment Weekly
Ten years after leaving South Africa, Eva van Rensburg returns to her dying father, a violent stuttering man whose terrible secret Eva has kept since she was a child, and to Skinner's Drift, the family farm, a tough stretch of land on the Limpopo River where jackals and leopards still roam.
In this beautiful, brave, and extraordinarily moving first novel, Lisa Fugard paints a haunting portrait of a young woman coming to terms with her family's violent past as her homeland, South Africa, confronts its own bloody history. Fugard moves with extraordinary agility between intimate and revelatory domestic scenes and the fiercely challenging land, "like the ravaged hide of some ancient beast." This is a powerful story from a stunning new writer.
About the Author
Lisa Fugard was born in South Africa, the daughter of acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard. She came to the United States in 1980 to pursue her acting career. She has written many articles for The New York Times travel section and this is her first novel. She lives in the desert of Southern California.
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