Read advance reader review of Scatterlings by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe, page 2 of 5

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A Novel

by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

Scatterlings by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe X
Scatterlings by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe
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  • Marilyn T. (Los Angeles, CA)
    Scatterlings, by Resoketswe Manenzhe
    I was drawn to this debut novel when I saw author Resoketswe Manenzhe described as a storyteller. In Scatterlings, she proves to be a masterful storyteller; weaving stories throughout the narrative, and crafting indelible images and characters.
    Mythic stories are at the heart of this historical novel, along with beguiling prose and unforgettable characters. Stories are recorded in journals; told to comfort children; and lonely people fall in love as they share stories. Some of the most powerful stories are told by wise serving women, Nanny Gloria and Josephina.
    The perspective shifts among characters, including Dido. Though still a child, her wide-eyed gaze perceives sadness in the adults around her. Dido diligently records her observations in a journal, as she hopes to be a storyteller herself someday.
    Scatterlings is often sad and unsettling; nonetheless, I recommend it to readers who want to understand South Africa's tragic legacy of racism. Set almost 100 years ago, this novel feels relevant and even hopeful, in its quietly satisfying conclusion.
  • Elizabeth T. (Bradenton, FL)
    Scatterlings is at once beautiful and painful, insightful (and for those of us not familiar with the history of South Africa) educational. It is also a novel the blends historical and literary fiction. The novel takes the reader on a journey to explore what it means to belong.

    The Immorality Act of 1927 is the framework around which the story unfolds. Bram a white man and Alisa, his Jamaican wife have their tenuous world upended when the Act is passed. They are the intersection of the story, trapped between the past and an unknown future and as often happens in those situations tragedy and displacement follow. As Alisa describes in Part IV of the novel, "It is such a brief history, one that starts in the middle of itself, as though a people's History can start without a proper beginning and place of origin." The search to understand what it means to be connected, to have a history drives the novel.

    This novels explores big questions and it does so in a quiet, understated manner. Telling the story of Apartheid and the Immorality Act through a small lens only adds to its power. Myths and folktales are woven throughout the novel and further explore what it means to be a Scatterling, uprooted and searching for Phelamanga.

    The New York Times in its Saturday (10-8-2022) Profile highlighted Paul Siguqa who owns the first fully black owned vineyard to Franschhoek South Africa. It is the same vineyard his mother labored in under Apartheid. Past and present have come together.

    I'm excited to recommend this novel to my Book Club.
  • Margaret K. (Seekonk, MA)
    I was drawn to read this book because of the cover, then the title and finally by seeing that it was written by a young South African woman. This book did not disappoint! It is very well written and her story unfolds in a magical, almost ethereal way, although the topic at hand is very painful in world history. This is a book that speaks to today and is, in the end, very wise and hopeful. Would be a good book for book clubs/discussion groups because there are many angles from which to see the characters and their life dilemmas. Do yourself a favor and read this book! It is lovely.
  • Jane B. (Chicago, IL)
    Scatterlings is a must read
    This is a beautifully written book about Africa and apartheid, specifically the Immorality Act of 1927 and its effect on one family. Africa-the mythical origin of life on earth for some and the fulfillment of the concept of home for just two. Multi layered story of spirits and kindness in the hands of an elegant writer who lyrically weaves a sad tale that is not to be missed.
  • Reid B. (Seattle, WA)
    Sad, beautiful, rich, and engaging
    This is a beautiful, sad book, an examination of what it means to be of a place, to take a country or a continent into your heart and make it a piece of you, even as that place rejects you for merely being who you are. It is also an indictment of our historical and ongoing racial crimes, our obsession with and irrational judgments around the color of skin.

    In 1927, South Africa passed the Immorality Act, making it a crime for a white person to have sexual relations with a Black one, even within marriage; in addition, their children may be seized and sent away. Both of the parties could be fined or imprisoned, though of course the penalties were much more severe for the Black person involved. Alisa and Abram are caught in such a bind and must choose whether to flee. Their lands are already being surveyed by the local government authority for confiscation.

    What makes this tragedy all the more difficult is Alisa's mental illness, a deep melancholy she cannot shake. In one of many magical choices in this novel, we are able to see Alisa's past through a series of entries in her journal, to see the vibrant young woman she was and how she came to be where and how she is.

    Despite the dark subject material here, this is not a difficult book to read. While not exactly infused with hope, it is nonetheless a story of resilience and joy, especially in the person of Dido, Abram and Alisa's daughter. She is a spark of life in a bleak landscape and helps us to understand that we must live, and live well, no matter what the cost or barrier standing against us.

    Infused throughout are stories and legends from Africa, emphasizing the richness and perception inherent in a culture the white world considered (and often still considers) primitive and ignorant. These, too, add a ray of hope, if only by reminding us that the world is eternal, even if we are mere embers in the great fire, quickly winking out by giving life to those who come after us.

    Truly a beautiful and heartbreaking tale, Scatterlings is a truly essential read for our times.
  • Kate S. (Arvada, CO)
    A Mixed Bag for Me
    Resoketswe Manenzhe certainly has a way with words. I was captivated in the beginning of the novel by the story, and the lyrical, poetic writing. The writing was thought provoking and many passages I re read because they were so touching. I also enjoyed the folklore aspect of the novel. That being said, I did get bogged down in the middle to end of the story for some reason; I am not completely sure what caused this. Was it the storyline, the change in writing style of the journal pages, too much time in between reading sessions? Regardless, I am glad I read the novel and think it would be a good pick for Book Clubs as there are many themes to discuss. I would read this author again if she writes another novel.
  • Bettie T. (Johns Island, SC)
    A beautiful book from Africa
    This is a beautifully written book with both universal themes (such as tribalism, finding home, marital issues etc), as well as a strong sense of time and place. The place is South Africa, and the time is 1927 (with some memory of events prior in the lives of our characters), when the Immorality Act is passed, making sexual relations between the races a crime. The law is not an abstract idea for our main characters, a family comprising a white father, his wife (black, but not native to Africa, being descended from Jamaican slaves and raised in England) and their two children. Staying on their farm near Cape Town becomes impossible, but leaving is fraught with very risky problems also. The book encompasses African legends and poetic phrasings that make the book a delight to read. One section is the diary of the mother, which includes describing how she comes to meet and marry her husband. This section is both awkward and compelling. However, Scatterlings is still a very good read, and should do well on the book club circuit.

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