Every now and again I fancy a story about implausibly wealthy people living their sparkly lives with constantly name dropped clothing brands. Mostly I like them for the faraway places they visit and describe. I'm not going to really review this one or name it, as it's one of many like this out there, I just happened to remind myself of my annoyance by picking this one to read.
I was very bothered by this one because it visited South Africa, and I really wasn’t sure whether these white people should be living “in such glory” as the main male character put it. They have a female black servant called Anxious. There’s an episode of home invasion, dogs slaughtered, main male character shot, heroine and Anxious bound on the kitchen floor -- and the black men carrying out the crimes are complete afterthoughts in the story. They turn up, from poverty, that has been touched on, as his the prevalence of crime in Johannesburg, and the white man views it as the “price we pay” for the vast estates and beauty in which they live. The way there was no contextualising of the vicious crimes at all, committed by “bulging eyes” and somebody called “Somebody” – it was just something that happened. As if it was weather. That’s wrong.
And if that was glided over in this way, it makes you remember what else was glossed over back at home, with the heroine’s husband a banker, and the financial crisis in full swing – the story is set in 2008. But it’s all just weather. None of it is grounded. The weather of the financial crisis stops the women spending so much, and they worry that their husbands are worrying; and out in South Africa a lovely interlude of passion is destroyed by violence that is never properly (or even a bit) explained.
There is no explanation or suggestion of responsibility for either thing. The empty gloss over is jarring.
I understand that this wasn’t a political story and didn’t want to grind those axes, but leaving such important parts of the story bare, not explaining even the smallest background information, perhaps assuming the reader just knows and has strong opinions already – which actually may be the case, in that there were several odd parts of the story where characters referred to themselves as having “British grit” or “British” stubbornness or stiff upper lippedness. A certain view of themselves as Britons.
It’s not only Brexit that has soured me to ‘British’ as a chest beating qualification for anything other than my irritation; it’s when characters say things like this and we know they usually mean ‘British is Better’.
An otherwise interesting, well-written and escapist novel, marred by areas of evasion and emptiness. A cake with nothing inside. Hopefully I'll pick my rest reading better next time.