Friday, August 1, 2008

Ceridwen Dovey, Blood Kin

I'm not sure what to make of Blood Kin. Or rather, I'm not sure what I make of Dovey's novel.

No doubt it is, in no small part, because I have a hankering after a strong sense of place. And Blood Kin exists in that netherworld reminiscent of Coetzee's work (to whom she has been compared -- it's rather an obvious parallel to draw, not the least because of her own personal geography; Coetzee also provides a blurb for the jacket). No blame in that.

And the novel works. A bit fantastic; more broadly fantastic than Coetzee's work, which to my thinking is so effective because it takes that ethereal No-Place and grounds it so thoroughly and starkly in one individual. Dovey's work weaves together six narrators. It works. For the most part.

Part of my quest for place is rooted in the fact of it being summer -- and my hankering after our own, my own, American South -- and my continuing search for a sense of South Africa (draw your own conclusions). I wouldn't say I expected it in Dovey, but I had half a mind looking for hints of it.

Ah, but it's a new day, and I'm getting old; I should yield more freely to the gifts of the young.

I will be interested to read what comes next. I suppose a short story in The New Yorker is inevitable -- following in the footsteps of other arguably African Next Big Things (Adichie and Akpan come immediately to mind).

In the meantime, you can read a review of Blood Kin in the New York Times, listen to an interview on NPR, peruse her website, and view some video of her on YouTube -- on her book, on power, and on beauty; as well as a reading or two.

The cover, by the way, is about as striking a cover as I've seen in a long while. It just looks good on the shelf.