Title: False River
Author: Dominique Botha
Reviewer: Gail Gilbride
Dominique and her beloved brother’s idyllic Free State childhood ends when boarding school far away becomes their reality. Their parents’ political opinions, coupled with Paul’s rebellious nature, have made schooling in the dorp challenging. Dominique is her brother’s faithful confidant and the extremely close relationship between the siblings is palpable.
Paul finds a way to express his turbulent emotions in poetry. His literary awakening opens up new worlds for him and for a while his life seems to be on track. When events turn against him, he flees the oppression of South Africa and starts again in London. But this new hope soon turns to unavoidable tragedy…
Dominique Botha’s heartbreaking novel of belonging and loss, is a courageous elegy to her brother as well as to a bygone way of life in a deeply divided South Africa.
Botha captures a particular place and time and explores the effects on her very real characters. Paul’s self-destructive spiral mirrors the birth-pains of the new democracy itself, as memories, political history and a cameo of rural life, are interwoven in an engrossing and convincing story.
Botha captures the haunting beauty of South Africa, in all its confusing contradictions. The universal themes of family loyalty, love, loss and new beginnings, make this a novel for everyone, wherever they are in the world.