cover image Up Against the Night

Up Against the Night

Justin Cartwright. Bloomsbury, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63286-018-7

Cartwright (Lion Heart) writes a tale of one South African man that combines beauty, joy, and foreboding. Frank McAllister is a scion of the Retief family, whose most famous member, Piet, led a group of Boer settlers to their deaths at the hands of the Zulu king, Dingane, in 1838. Frank left South Africa behind to become a very successful businessman in London. Now he is making his annual return visit to his seaside vacation home on the Cape with his new love, Nellie Erikson; his daughter, Lucinda; and Nellie's son, Bertil. Frank is trying to keep away from his cousin, Jaco Retief, a drunken failure of a man with a violent temper. While Frank is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and his loving family, the reader also follows Jaco's ominous progress across the country as he purchases a gun and moves inexorably toward his cousin. Frank himself describes the land "as a kind of tapestry, intimately woven of beautiful landscapes and violent death." His love of Shakespeare contrasts sharply with Jaco's low vulgarity, but both lend this work an air of impending tragedy. (Nov.)