“I was born on page 23 of my brother’s book. On page 52, before the whole world, I betrayed him.”
My Brother’s Book tells a story of betrayal and atonement that spans the lives of two siblings from their nomadic childhood in the Eastern Cape in the 1960s, to their adulthood in 2004 in Johannesburg.
While the nation struggles to come to terms with its past, Lily struggles with her guilt about her careless betrayal of her brother, Tom, which destroyed his life and their relationship.
Tom confronts this fraught past by writing a memoir. But both Lily, and Tom’s former lover Miranda, take issue with the way his book remembers their shared pasts. The two women begin to unravel “the way it really was”. They tell a story of love and loss, of revolutionary fervour – and failure.
As the past unravels, so do Tom’s certainties about his relationship to his estranged family and to his nation. His life is thrown into further confusion and chaos as Lily uncovers a secret that will force him to confront his past.
Jo-Anne Richards has written a poignant and evocative tale of the ways in which seemingly minute choices can destroy lives and relationships.
She beautifully captures the complexities and nuances of a relationship between two siblings struggling to reconcile their fierce love for one another and the thirty-year anger that has divided them.
My Brother’s Book explores the most intimate aspects of betrayal and deception set against the backdrop of a nation striving to understand the consequences of its terrible and traumatic past.
My Brother’s Book is both tragic and intensely hopeful as it charts its characters’ paths from guilt and betrayal to atonement and redemption.
Richards has an acute sense of place, in its small town and big city guises, and a wonderful ear for South African idiom.
My Brother’s Book is her most ambitious work to date. Moving subtly between past and present, it casts a searing light on the way we reveal and conceal our truths in stories.
Few South African writers can capture the complicated magic and cultural confusion of a constantly changing country like Jo-Anne Richards can. My Brother’s Book is wry and moving and beautifully observed.
Happily, Jo-Anne Richards’ new novel, My Brother’s Book, provides all the thrills of reading one of SA’s great writers, and more besides: in this, her fourth book, Richards has upped her game from a pretty high point and written her best book yet.
My Brother’s Book is a richly told story which manages to keep its secrets well hidden until the very last. Above all, it can be read as a meditation on truth, its unstable and highly individualised nature. The last part of the novel … offers a consolatory glimpse into the future of his fractured family and leaves one with a sense of hope and closure.
It combines the unputdownable element of the best thrillers with themes such as contested memory, betrayal and identity. A brilliant read.
Richards recreates small-town SA life in the latter part of the 20th century with a superbly wry, yet affectionate eye for detail. Poignant, subtle and evocative, this novel is one of the finest I’ve read all year.
…an intricately patterned novel about love, race and betrayal … From a writer’s point of view, the novel is elegantly framed … The childhood evocations of yearning, intensity and betrayal are superbly rendered, making the novel read flawlessly and engagingly … There is a deft twist in the tale, best left to the reader to discover, making this novel a worthy contribution to serious South African writing about identity, becoming, and the complex (not to mention unexpected) processes of self-discovery.
n Komplekse maar hoogse genotvolle verhaal oor die belewenis van waarheid binne gesins- en politieke verband. Net ‘n soutpilaar sal nie aangegryp word deur lily se hipnotiserende openingsin en haar oorrompelende weergawe van hul verlede nie. Richards se uitstekende landskap-beskrywings en vernuftige vasvang van ‘n tydsidioom spreek van ‘n gedugte talent. So ook haar vermoë om ‘n verhaal deur drie verskillende monde en tussen die hede en die verre verlede so oortuigend en spanningsvol te laat vlot
The plot of My Brother’s Book is not straightforward … Keeping such a plot readable, as Richards effortlessly does, is a feat in itself. Yet below these entanglements is another layer, one that reaches to the core of a country at odds with itself … What makes My Brother’s Book a worthy addition to the canon of race-involved, white authored fiction (championed, perhaps, by Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat) is the novel’s strong and visceral sense of “place” – its rootedness in the finely wrought detail of a certain scene at a certain time … It travels much further along the path that Richards mapped in 1996. The metaphors are more mature. It is expertly edited, the political allusions are subtler.