Monday, November 16, 2015

Bitter Eden

by Tatamkhulu Afrika

I fully admit that I was mainly attracted to the cover...

...of the 2014 edition, which continues around the spine; I doubt I would have glanced twice at the 2009 edition...

...which isn't bad, but certainly less striking and not as obviously erotic.

And erotic this novel is, in its way, though it's more "gay vague" than actually gay. The story, which takes place in a series of WWII POW camps, has some minor openly gay characters — mostly objects of derision and disgust, occasionally grudging and reluctant respect — but the two main characters are at best situationally homophilic. In the end, however, the characters' actions raise some questions as to whether it could have been more in different circumstances, or if the intensity of the original circumstances created some lingering confusion and misplaced yearning.

All in all, it's a pretty solid book and an interesting look at the psychology of an all-male POW camp. The language is occasionally a bit old-fashioned, but don't worry about the slang (WWII, UK, South African), you can mostly skip over it or deduce its meaning. I don't know if this book is meant to be semi-autobiographical, but the author did spend time as a POW, and he had an interesting life besides.

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