A house gun, like a house cat: a fact of ordinary life, today. How else can you defend yourself against losing your hi-fi equipment, your TV set and computer? The respected Executive Director of an insurance company, Harald, and his doctor wife, Claudia, are faced with something that could never happen to them: their son, Duncan, has committed murder. What kind of loyalty do a mother and father owe a son who has committed the unimaginable horror? How could he have ignored the sanctity of human life? What have they done to influence his character; how have they failed him? Nadine Gordimer's new novel is a passionate narrative of the complex manifestations of that final test of human relations we call love - between lovers of all kinds, and parents and children. It moves with the restless pace of living itself; if it is a parable of present violence, it is also an affirmation of the will to reconciliation that starts where it must, between individual men and women.
Nadine Gordimer’s novel was interesting more than enjoyable. In fact I didn’t like it much at all, even though some of the writing is of high quality.
The son, the murderer, remains an enigma throughout. He says next to nothing in his own defence and makes no effort to “explain” his act. Parents and lawyer are left to exercise their minds on this question, to formulate plausible mitigation and to find their own peace with the son’s fateful deed.
And exercise their minds they do - oh yes! - repetitiously, tediously retracing the sequence of events leading to the murder, In this there may be verisimilitude, but it lends the novel a dull, static quality. There is no unfolding, no revelation. We know as much but no more at the end than we did at the beginning.
There is also no light relief in the narrative, no jokes, little irony. Rather an intense intellectual earnestness about the entire work. It was this aspect that I found interesting, perhaps typical of South African writers. For conscientious citizens trapped in the bizarre unreality of the apartheid era, turning inward for solutions must have been a commonplace response. As reader, one can feel the neurosis, the constant nervous strain of it all.
It also examines to a lesser degree white-black relations and power play in South Africa.