What a miserable ending to a really soul capturing novel! London, Cape Town, Joburg by ZukiswaWanner had me hooked from day one but I must say, I was never really ready for that ending – plot twist of note. To be fair, the story starts with two parents mourning their only son who had committed suicide.
From the onset you know that something really bad must have happened for a thirteen-year-old to kill himself but before the author lets us in on the reason, she takes us through one of the best, heart-warming, authentic love stories I have read in a while.
Martin O’Malley and Germaine Spencer, are two imperfect people who come together and build what seems like a perfect nest. They understand each other, defend each other, fight, make up, have loads of sex and most importantly love and respect one another.
I loved every moment of their love story. From the insecurities, jealous moments, moving from city to city and how they grew into such cool, yet strict parents. Wanner takes us on their love journey and also shares stories of those around them.
There is drama and intrigue. Each main character tells their story from their point of you, yes they speak directly to the reader. You taste their food, smell their fragrances, get angry with them and calm down together. It felt like watching a movie in 4D. So many moments I found myself saying, “oh no” or even laughing out loud – much to my partner’s irritation.
The couple meets in London, moves to Cape Town and shit hits the fan when they relocate to Johannesburg. While reading, there were many moments were I would try and predict moments that would shake their relationship. When they moved to Cape Town – I figured the race issues would get to them and would break their love. But, nope, their loved survived South Africa’s racial boxing.
When they moved to Johannesburg and Martin had a sexy black PA – I thought – yep this is it. The cookie is going to crumble and he is going to leave his English wife for some Busi. Still, Germaine found a sophisticated way to mark her territory – we could all learn a thing or two from this character.
I thought Germaine’s feminism which remains constant throughout the novel would get to Martin as he entrenched himself in his patriarchal culture, business and a little bit of political socialising. Still, the couple stays firm on their well-built love foundation. So what is it? Something must go wrong. And you sort of start feeling the end is near when Zuko’s voice joins the narrative. Zuko is their only son. Although it is via his correspondence with his journal.
The boy has children problems, nothing major. He loves swimming, misses his friends – he is really just a 12-year-old living his live, until that fateful night at his comrade uncle’s house. What happens at his beloved uncle's house left me shocked, hurt and disgusted.
The stand out theme from this novel is: privilege. Privilege gives us a false sense of security, it’s like alcohol. It numbs the senses. Makes us feel good, makes us less conscious and leaves us vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with trusting someone else, someone close, someone family – but with everything happening daily – maybe it is time we sobered up.
Shit hits the fan when the fences of privilege come down and betrayal of the worst kind hits my Martin and Germain.
It is this betrayal that makes the books introduction when Martin feels like he saw hatred in his wife’s eyes – I would hate him too. Martin failed his family big time when they moved to Johannesburg but his biggest failure in my eyes was his inability to act on a vital piece of news his son shared with him.
“His death, at his own hands. His death which I could have prevented had I been a better father…” - Martin
Was he paralysed by the love he had for his brother? Was he paralysed by the fact that he had lost all his families savings and needed his brother now more than ever? But shouldn’t protecting, defending and standing up for his son trump all those insecurities – Zuko was his damn son. His only son. His only child. But yet he was paralysed!
The saying, Love will Blind You, best describes this couple’s Joburg life. Everything was set to go wrong as soon as Martin’s biological big wig dad showed up. Martin, initially angry, was over taken by excitement of having “baba”. Only to find “baba” would cheat him hard and when it was discovered – “baba” was 6-feet under – his mother had warned him.
The whole book reads like a really well put together soapie or a dramatical series. As we move between Germaine and Martin’s perspective on phases in their lives and scenes – it is hard not to fall in love with the couple and their associates.
Germaine is a proud feminist and I loved that Martin fell in love with all of her feminism and not ones did he try to change it. Instead he celebrated it. Loved all of her and he himself agreed with her on many issues. Martin was an investment banker, raised by his South African mom and Irish step-dad. He was born and raised in London. Their romance started in London, and they moved to Cape Town when Zuko was a baby.
It is a heart-breaking ending to a really beautiful love story. I wish Wanner could write a follow up to this story so we know where it ends. Does Liam, the uncle go to jail or get killed by Martin? Will Martin and Germaine survive this? I have so many scenarios playing in my head. I am angry at Martin and I can only imagine Germaine’s pain.
Gosh, Zukiswa Wanner is a phenomenal story teller!