Teenage fiction

28th January 2000 at 00:00
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

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today