The trauma of parents who discover their son is not the man they thought. It happens to the Lagards of South Africa when Duncan, 27, shoots a man friend out of jealousy. The act reveals a violent individual with--to them--an inconceivable sexual preference and attitude to race.
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.