Set on the border between South Africa and an unnamed neighboring country in the 1970s, A Blade of Grass is a suspenseful novel about a bitter struggle over a small farm and its dramatic consequences for two women, one white and one black.
The story centers on Märit Laurens, a young woman of British descent, recently orphaned and newly wed, who comes to live with her husband, Ben, on their newly purchased farm. Shortly after her arrival, violence strikes at the heart of Märit's world, leaving her alone and isolated. Devastated, confused, but determined to run the farm on her own, Märit finds herself in a simmering tug of war between the local Afrikaner community that surrounds the farm and the black workers who live on it, both vying for control over the land in the wake of tragedy.
Märit's only supporter is her black housekeeper, Tembi, who, like Märit, is alone in the world. The women are determined to hold on to the farm, but the quietly encroaching civil war brings out conflicting loyalties that turn the fight for the farm into a fight for their lives.
A Blade of Grass is a wrenching story of friendship and betrayal and of the trauma of the land that has shaped post-colonial Africa. Thrilling to read and morally complex in its message, it offers a fresh, profound, and emotionally immediate perspective on what it means to be black or white in a country where both races live and feel entitlement.
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Lewis De Soto's debut novel, A Blade of Grass, tells the story of Marit Laurens, a young woman of British descent, recently orphaned, who has moved with her new husband Ben to a remote farm on the contested borderland between South Africa and an unnamed country. When Ben is killed by a bomb in an act of guerilla warfare, she decides to stay on and run the farm. Alone in the world, she befriends Tembi, the daughter of her black housemaid, who has also been killed, in an accident. Struggling to transform herself as the surrounding countryside descends into bloody conflict, Marit finds herself caught between the fear and prejudices of the local Afrikaner community and the shifting loyalties and growing feeling of entitlement of the indigenous black workers. When first the Afrikaners and then the blacks flee the area, and the outside world starts to encroach menacingly on the isolated farm, Marit is stripped of everything that gave her a sense of self and a sense of belonging to this place.
A Blade of Grass is a delicate, if at times naively sentimental, exploration of the arc of a courageous relationship between two women from different societies, each an outcast from her own, during the death throes of apartheid: from the rigid structure of master and servant, through the tenderness of the shared experience of aloneness and defiance in the face of societal pressures, to betrayal. De Soto has transformed the quiet immensity of the South African veldt into spare, luminous prose. He contains everything--repression and ownership, belonging and loss, humiliation and hope--in the small gesture, the seed, the blade of grass. The story's brutality is barely graphic in its depiction, but the terror is present nonetheless, lurking insistently beneath the surface, waiting at the edge of the farm. --Diana Kuprel, Amazon.caAbout the Author:
Lewis DeSoto was born in South Africa and moved to Canada as a teenager. His first novel, A Blade of Grass, was an international bestseller and an International Book of the Month selection. Longlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the novel was also a finalist for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. An artist as well as a writer, DeSoto authored a biography of the painter Emily Carr. He lives with his wife, the artist Gunilla Josephson, in Toronto and Normandy, France. Visit him online at www.lewisdesoto.com.
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