This is a gentle story about love across the colour bar, where the bitter young ANC revolutionary learns that it is permissible to love a beautiful blonde girl, and her parents learn that it is essential to compromise. The author maintains a degree of tension with a clever stylistic exercise that has the past and the present alternating, building up to the symbolic climax of a funeral paralleling a wedding.
If the title Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary puts you off, join the club. But if you soldier on through the opening scene, fascinated by horror, curiosity, or by the quality of the writing itself, you’ll reap a rich reward. Part of it is close identification with characters black, white and brown, who are caught up in a swirling vortex that’s sucking them down to their destiny. You feel you’re meeting yourself, and people you know, on every page.
Jenny takes us on a beautifully written and illuminating tour through the lives of two fictitious families, examining the forces that have fashioned their lives. Her characters are warm, vibrant, entirely convincing.
Een van die grootste pluspunte van die roman is die eerlikheid en simpatie waarmee van Suid-Afrika se ingewikkeldste en dwingendste vraagstukke ondersoek word. Die enigste oordeel wat gevel word, is teen uiterstes soos rassisme en geweld. Die skryfstel is uitstekend.
Not many first novels are as powerful as Jenny Hobbs’ tale of forbidden love in South Africa… anyone who picks up this book will have the greatest difficulty putting it down.
Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary is a praise song to South Africans of all races who are attempting to build bridges over the chasms that divide the various peoples of this country. The book is also a stunning showcase for Jenny Hobbs’s literary talent.
The author is at all times relentless in her enquiry… Yet the experience is bearable for the hardbitten honesty one senses which puts one in mind of the description of Rose’s father as showing a grain “that is hard but true”. It is precisely this that shines through Hobbs’s polemic.
It’s a powerful and interesting book… Jenny Hobbs and her heroine follow a local tradition of women writers that goes back to the early novels of Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer.
A country in torment often produces a fine literature. South Africa is no exception …. In the roll of honour can be found a remarkable first novelist, Jenny Hobbs, and her story of forbidden love Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary.
She builds her novel on two overlapping narratives… It’s a simple, bold but very demanding strategy… Hobbs has to show not only how two lives unfold in separate sectors of the society but also why and what it means, that they should come together to such a horrific end. The ‘how’ is impressive.