A dramatic and compelling portrait of two women's lifelong relationship set against the backdrop of half a century of apartheid in South Africa
How can you speak when speech has been taken away? When the only person listening refuses to understand? Milla, trapped in silence by a deadly paralysing illness, confined to her bed, struggles to make herself heard by her maidservant and now nurse, Agaat. Contrary, controlling, proud, secretly affectionate, the two women, servant and mistress, are more than matched. Life for white farmers like Milla in the South Africa of the 1950s was full of promise - newly married, her future held the thrilling challenges of creating her own farm and perhaps one day raising children. Forty years later, the world Milla knew is as if seen in a mirror, and all she has left are memories and diaries. As death draws near, she looks back on good intentions and soured dreams, on a brutal marriage and a longed-for only son scarred by his parents battles, and on a lifetime s tug-of-war with Agaat. Marlene Van Niekerk's is a stunning new literary voice from South Africa, to compare to J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer.
THE WAY OF THE WOMEN combines the stark intensity of a remarkable death-bed chamber piece, which none the less contains humour, with a compendious sweep from 19th-century boomtime in the Cape to the Angolan war - GUARDIAN
Ambitious and loaded with a narrative energy you will not find - at the same pitch or in the same range - in the work of any of the big names in South African writing... A masterpiece has arrived - South African SUNDAY TIMES
A polyphonic novel that sows many voices into its fertile soil... A narrative that focuses a wide sweep of events and emotions into the bond of mistress and maid - INDEPENDENT