Ties of Blood

Gillian Slovo, Author
Gillian Slovo, Author William Morrow & Company $22.95 (574p) ISBN 978-0-688-08925-2
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
The struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa takes center stage in this hefty, sprawling novel of four generations of two South African matriarchies--the descendants, respectively, of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants and of a Xhosa chief. In her attempt to animate 20th-century history, however, mystery writer Slovo ( Morbid Symptoms ), daughter of exiled South African activists, has produced, at best, a sequence of tableaux: the miners' strike of the 1920s, the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s, the shanties of Soweto, penal farms, Pretoria prisons, political exile. These appalling contexts dwarf her undeveloped characters, depicted as ``chains of women bound by ties of blood, of guilt, and of duty.'' As they age, the women of one generation are nearly always replaced in the limelight by daughters who embody the day's progressive politics. The political convictions of the protagonists, whose lack of dimension is exacerbated by wooden dialogue, seem merely pietistic. Failing to give life to her characters' conflicts, Slovo has failed to do justice to her subject. Literary Guild alternate; author tour . (May)
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