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Aug 03, 2015wyenotgo rated this title 4 out of 5 stars
Occasionally lyrical, often gritty, this is a big, angry story about a tough, resourceful young man growing up in a chaotic world populated by deeply damaged refugees, abused native tribesmen, crafty charlatans, brutal Nazi-influenced bullies and roughnecks of all kinds. What fascinating characters Bonert is able to portray and how complex, real and deeply human they are, with all their foibles, contradictions, self-delusions! Plagued by misfortune and betrayal, Isaac pursues desperate dreams of personal success far beyond his reach -- a Don Quixote tilting at windmills while having no illusions that they are anything other than windmills, and knowing full well that they will knock him down. A totally absorbing story; yet I have a few quibbles: Dialogue made up of a mixture of Afrikaans, Yiddish, Zulu and English, much of it semi-literate to the point of gibberish, all without a single quotation mark to separate speech from narrative will certainly present a challenge to most readers. A bit of familiarity with the expressions and cadence of Yiddish was helpful, but on the whole, Bonert's style often made for hard going even though it was very effective in immersing the reader into the milieu, as was clearly his intent. I also got the feeling that toward the end, Bonert began to realize that the book was getting too long and he began to lose interest in details and tried to speed things up, skipping over large time sequences to bring the story to a conclusion. After all the tempestuousness that characterized most of the story, the quiet, rather sad ending struck me as anticlimactic. Despite all of that, highly recommended.