Kirsten Miller’s is a review that gauges the depths and breadths of Justin Cartwright’s substantial literary output over many years, comparing him favorably with John Updike, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan. Miller takes into consideration the impact of Cartwright’s leaving South Africa on his writing.
It is this comment that indicates a thorough and sensitive reading and an empathic but not wholly uncritical assessment of the text, “Most of the book is set in London, but there is a gesture towards Africa, and this is the only place in the narrative that feels circumspect, where one is unable to fully surrender to the story.” Reviewing of this calibre is so very welcome:
For 40 years he was bound by secrets and restrictions, and now that Nancy is gone he is unable to tell his children that he is both happier and more uncertain than he was for the whole of his married life. “You don’t understand the notion of necessary fictions when you are young, but it is one most people embrace fervently when they know they are dying.”
Now that he’s wearing elephant-hair bracelets and losing weight, his children assume that he’s doing his best to cope without their mother. He tells his daughter Lucy, “You know what Iago said, ‘I am not what I am.’”
- To Heaven by Water by Justin Cartwright
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