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Teenage fiction

A MONKEY'S WEDDING. By Norman Silver. Faber original pound;4.99

A monkey's wedding is when sunshine and rain appear together, and it stands here as a metaphor for the new South Africa in a book where the country emerges from the pages as a violent, difficult land which is neverthelessstill full of possibilities.

Four girls swear eternal friendship. Reena, the white girl, tells us about all their lives, but the main focus of the story is her own family, and in particular her brother's terrifying descent into the world of drug addiction.

The other main strand in the plot is the change that overtakes Rebecca, the adopted coloured girl who reverts to her real name of Sindizwe, and who has strange and charismatic qualities

Every sort of tragedy and disaster is recounted in a deliberately flat and unsensational prose, but like the rainbow that appears at a monkey's wedding, hope remains undimmed and the promise of a South Africa free of all racial hatred is symbolised not only by the girls' friendship, but by the mural they produce towards the end of the book.

Writing is a kind of ventri-loquism, and there's no reason why a man cannot write convincingly in the voice of a girl, but here and there - especially in discussing matters of the heart - Silver's tone falters a little. All in all, though, and as long as youdo not expect conventional happy endings, this is aneye-opening novel about afascinating country.

Adele Geras

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