Doris Lessing with jokes!
Like the first couple of books in the ‘Martha Quest’ ‘Children of Violence’ series, this book covers the childhood, adolescence and early womanhood of a white girl growing up in the era of apartheid (Trapido’s South Africa for Lessing’s as it then was ‘Rhodesia’)
Both books explore the awful waste of humanity and human potential which apartheid brought – and how it crushed and stultified its proponents, even those who championed and upheld its tenets – as well as its devastating effect on the non-white population.
Both books also explore what it means to be a girl child, and to grow into womanhood in that community, and at that time, before feminist ideas had become more mainstream.
Lessing is much darker, mythic and visceral, whereas Trapido’s wit, inventiveness and almost Dorothy Parker like acidity turns the same mixture into something much funnier – though equally as heartfelt, serious and truthful. She captures brilliantly the power and pleasure of schoolgirl friendships.
And i admired her ability to instruct in some of the complications of South African politics of the era without falling into the trap of ‘delivering lectures’ or using clumsy devices to give her readers a historical perspective – you know the sort of devices where one character will instruct or lecture to another character some crucial pieces of infomation, and you know this is only there because you, the reader, may not know the information and the writer needs YOU, not the other character, to know this!
In fact, Trapido did this all so well that I really can’t remember exactly how she managed it – which means it worked splendidly and seamlessly!