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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Corrosive Legacy Of Apartheid

Absolution - Patrick Flanery

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Absolution focuses on a series of meetings between elderly writer, Clare Wald, and her recently-appointed biographer, Samuel Leroux. However at the real heart of the novel lies the fate of Laura, Clare's daughter.

Missing, presumed dead, Laura was actively involved in the liberation struggle and her life intersected dramatically with Sam's childhood, though we only learn the full significance of this intersection as the novel progresses and the truth about Sam's, Clare's and Laura's inter-connected pasts begins to emerge from a number of over-lapping and conflicting narratives. Even by the end of the book, however, several important questions are left only partially answered and the reader is forced to draw his or her own conclusions.

Patrick Flanery paints an arresting picture of contemporary South Africa as a society riven by violent crime in which the white middle class have barricaded themselves within fortress-like compounds whose every room is equipped with a panic button.

It's not a comfortable read and the ending is in many ways unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, this is a compelling, challenging and disturbing account of the corrosive effect the apartheid regime exercised, and still continues to exercise, on both South Africa's black and white communities.