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Novel set in South Africa (day and night…)

25th September 2015

Up Against The Night by Justin Cartwright – novel set in South Africa

UntitledUp Against The Night is a quite excellent novel. Justin Cartwright writes extremely well, and uses his words to paint evocative pictures. His style is easy going and fluid. The book starts in the New Forest in South West England, moves through the beaches and countryside surrounding Cape Town in South Africa (where the majority of it is set), and ends up in Sweden. At one level it is the story of Frank McAllister, a South African who became rich in the UK, his almost second wife Nellie (to whom he actually gets married at the end of the book), his recovering drug addict daughter, and her teenage son. They travel to Frank’s house outside Cape Town for an idyllic holiday – surfing, sun bathing, BBQs on the beach, and wildlife safaris. It is a wonderful, carefree existence. Just one slightly more serious note. Piet Retief, a Boer ancestor of Frank’s (and, incidentally of the author) led an expedition that was massacred at Drakensberg by a Zulu chief called Dingane. Frank and his daughter set off with a driver to visit the scene of the battle all those years ago… Piet Retief is still revered amongst the Afrikaans community, although he was not the nicest of men.

So far we have been in the ‘day’ scenario – the privileged existence of white South Africans (years, of course, after the end of Aparthied). Their privileges are rivalled only by the new black millionaires… But for the majority of South Africans, the working class Boers and the black masses, life is not all roses. It is pretty miserable and desperate…This is the ‘night’ scenario. Frank has a cousin called Jaco who fits perfectly into the classification of working class Boer – he finds it hard to get work because of the preference given by law to black applicants. He is also an alcoholic, separated from his wife and missing his children. He, too, is not the nicest of men. Frank helps him out financially, but reluctantly. But absolutely tries to distance himself. It is a parallel plot that shows us the underbelly of the country.

We come (no spoilers) to a very dramatic ending to the South African holiday before our brief visit to Sweden.

Up Against The Night is a book that really shows the reader the two South Africas close and up personal. I recommend it.

Tony for the TripFiction Team

You can follow author Justin Cartwright on Twitter

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