Sunday, September 03, 2006

'My Father’s Orchid ' (Rayda Jacobs)

Rayda Jacobs’ writing has a gloriously filmic quality. In My Father’s Orchid, we see the metal window frames and unplastered walls on Calendula Road in Bridgetown, smell the cabbage bredie and mince frikkadels, taste the slap chips and Lunch Bars.

We hear Uncle James’s voice loud and slurry on the microphone singing Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ – and experience some of the most intimate idiosyncrasies of life in the Cape Flats.

We become acquainted with Hüd: named after a Muslim prophet, raised as a Christian and part of two vibrant, vivid, totally different families:

“If Mr Johnson was his father…then she was his grandmother. But she was nothing…like his other grandmother who would’ve flung her arms around him and planted a fat kiss on his cheek by this time. Aunt Galiema took her leave as quietly and as mysteriously as she had come.”

My Father’s Orchid has been touted as a novel about social class and religion – but for me, it’s a novel about families and the complex casts of characters that make and break them.