A schoolboy playing truant bumps into his revered father coming out of the cinema with a woman. An ordinary mishap, but the father is no ordinary man, and the family, threatened by the affair, is no ordinary family. It is a highly intimate drama of personal conflict and public struggle in the evolutionary events that, at great costs to people like these, have brought about change in South Africa.
I fell under Gordimer's spell immediately. She is a gifted storyteller. Her writing is breathtaking. Consider this description of Will's life:
"There's no air in my life. The polished corridors of police stations and prisons have been the joy-rides I've been taken on with the people I love."
Or this description of the Supreme Court in the Palace of Justice:
"I sat in the great entrance hall among majestic pillars with polished brass feet, under lozenges of coloured light that came steeply from stained-glass windows; their churches and their halls of justice are somehow mixed up, the see some divine authority in their laws."
This book is an excellent example of how the story of a single family, while different from the story of every other family, can begins the last chapter with this observation:
"It's an old story - ours. My father's and mine. Love, love/hate are the most common and universal of experiences. But no two are alike, each is a fingerprint of life. That's the miracle that makes literature and links it with creation itself in the biological be used to illustrate a nation's history. Will himself makes this point. Part of the story is told from Will's perspective, and he sense."
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Gordimer's work.