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Jane Rosenthal Reviews Reports Before Daybreak by Brent Meersman

Reports Before Daybreak Verdict: carrot

In 1985, Molly Blackburn, a Black Sash activist in the Eastern Cape, asked, “What turns a young man hardly out of school into a monster?” This is one of the many questions raised in Brent Meersman’s new novel, set mainly in the decade preceding Mandela’s release. It follows the lives of three Cape Town families, particularly two sons, who live respectively in Crossroads, Rugby (a white working class area) and Camp’s Bay.

These families are connected by Alicia Nonkosi from Crossroads, the domestic worker for Trudy de Koninck in Rugby, as well as for Jennifer Diepenaar in Camps Bay. This powerful work takes the reader from these carefully described homes into the heart of battle in Angola and Crossroads. It delineates family life at a time when young white men were conscripted into the South African Defence Force (SADF) and young black men left in droves to be trained for service in Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), when sons and daughters became strangers to their parents. Whether or not they turned into monsters is for the reader to decide.

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