Belonging

Larraine Segil, Author Signet Book $4.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-451-18110-7
The politics of race and gender drive much of the action in this female coming-of-age saga about two South African women--one white and privileged, the other black and poor--who, through various quirks of circumstance, forge a strong if unlikely childhood friendship. Gyneth Amron is the doted-on only child of a prominent Johannesburg physician, while Carolyn Ngwizi is the orphaned daughter of the Amrons' maid. But Gyneth's future is nearly as circumscribed by decorum and filial duty as Carolyn's is by institutionalized racism. Both women eventually leave their native country and find their identities through successful careers, Carolyn as a London doctor and Gyneth as a Los Angeles social planner, but their friendship is torn apart when Gyneth inadvertently betrays Carolyn. The unpredictable plot takes many a melodramatic turn partly because Segil resists simplifying the various dilemmas her protagonists face. Readers' attention will be focused less on plot than on Segil's complex, well-realized and believable characters. Most refreshingly, sexual fulfillment, while obviously important, is represented as only one of many goals in a woman's life, taking a back seat to self-love and self-knowledge. Neither especially gripping nor profound, Belonging is nevertheless an engaging read. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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