Devil's Valley

Andre Brink, Author
Andre Brink, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24 (416p) ISBN 978-0-15-100440-9
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 420 pages - 978-0-15-601208-9
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4464-5099-4
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The South African author of A Dry White Season and Imaginings of Sand is fascinated by obscure corners of his country's history, and has a strongly developed sense of fantasy. These two elements come together in his latest novel, a rich, bawdy and fiercely imagined tale of an over-the-hill reporter, Flip Lochner, who discovers a remote mountain valley where a group of primitive Boer farmers and their families have been holed up, virtually out of touch with modern civilization, for the best part of a century. They are a rum crew: ferociously moralistic on the surface while sexually voracious on the sly (even miscegenation, the deadliest sin in their book, is not unknown); brutal in their punishments, but tolerant of frightful excesses committed within the family bosom. Above all, though a long drought is decimating their numbers, they wish to be left to themselves. Brink's account of Lochner's adventures among them reminds a reader somewhat of Gulliver's, and it is clear the author is reveling in the chance to satirize the beliefs and behaviors of the Boer culture in which he was raised. His conviction, expressed strongly in previous books, that women carry the burden of maintaining life while foolish, quarrelsome men do their best to ruin it, is set forth again in his portraits of several powerful women in Devil's Valley. It's difficult to build and maintain a convincing alternate world, but Brink succeeds with only a few signs of strain, and the book is vigorous, earthy entertainment that also sheds light on the darker reaches of South Africa's past. (Mar.)
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