Ralph McAllister Hails Booker Prizewinner Set In The Apartheid Era

Ralph McAllister writes: ‘First of a fruitful month ,THE PROMISE by Damon Galgut, the just-awarded Booker winner for an author who has been nominated twice, deserved better through the years, and now will have his desire for reclusive living threatened, even if his mom will protect him from the press.

Fictional Ma’s last wish is that her faithful servant Salome be given land and a cottage on the white Pretorian property estate .

But this is 1986 and at the first of four funerals covering the next forty years we realise that the times may be a’changing for some but not for others.

Gloomy story?

Not at all.

The author Galgut guides us through apartheid ,World Cup triumph,Mandela and present day South Africa as successive members of the Swart family refuse to honour the promise.

At all times humour is there, easing us with skill and changing perspectives through some painful revelations.

We glide from character to character effortlessly ,a skill that reminds one of Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness technique or even James Joyce.

Make no mistake,for once Booker got it right.

Anther kind of book

It is no secret to readers of this column and listeners of Nine to Noon that I see no wrong in declaring James Lee Burke one of the greatest novelists of this and last century.

If you want proof of his brilliance try his latest and 40 th, ANOTHER KIND OF EDEN.

This is shorter than usual,no less bleak, peopled by his usual mixture of raw, brutal, intelligent and humane men and women with a young Broussard gaining experience in 60 ‘s Wild West America.

My commitment to Lee Burke has never faltered as it has remained too ,with perdurable toughness ,to John Le Carre.

Le Carre’s final thriller

SILVERVIEW his final spy thriller is as elegant as ever in phrasing,setting and plot.

His fame began with THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD in 1963,and his consistently complex and dastardly spies have fought many a brave battle over the course of some 30 novels.

SILVERVIEW is shorter so may help new readers begin the long rewarding journey into the cold.

Successor to ‘ All The Light We Cannot See’

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND is the long awaited successor by Anthony Doerr after his

much acclaimed triumph ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.

This is one of the longest ,most demanding and incredible novels I have read in some time.

In breathtaking shifts we move from 15 th century Constantinople to present day Idaho. A space ship Argos whisks us back and forward in the future ,each story linked through the world of books and a Greek myth.

All the leading participants are young and we watch their growing maturity and perplexities with fear and compassion.

Our loyalties waver, even to the point of almost supporting a terrorist planning chaos in a public library.

The research helps us understand why Doerr took 7 years to complete this mighty tome.

Greek references abound and made me think perhaps I should have chosen Greek rather than Latin to study all those years ago.

The novel is dedicated to librarians and  Doerr finishes by thanking his readers.

We owe him an enormous vote  of thanks for what could be next year’s Booker and his role in making this a vintage month.


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