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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Writing Circle by Rozena Maart

When I first started reading The Writing Circle by Rozena Maart (TSAR Publications), I immediately began wondering about the character Isabel. Why did she need someone to follow her home from work? Why did her house have large security gates around it, and why was someone supposed to watch for her at the window? Was she so important? But as I read further, I realized all the female characters were living the same way. No woman was leaving her house after dark without a male chaperon, and to do so meant admonishments from family and friends. Everyone had cell phones and checked in with each other constantly. Why? The answer was simple: They're women living in Cape Town, South Africa.

With a little research online, I was to learn The Writing Circle was not a strange and dark fairy tale, but a story based on the scary truth: South Africa has one of the highest levels of reported rape in the world. And when you consider a large percentage of rapes are never even reported, you have an even bigger problem that cannot be ignored.

Rozena Maart handles her characters with compassion and sensitivity, revealing the fear they live with daily and the memories they have to face when their writing group friend, Isabel, is raped in the driveway as they await her arrival. Each chapter gives a character a chance to speak in her own voice, every voice unique and richly layered. Their stories and how they deal with their friend's mental breakdown after the rape make this more than a book - it should be used as a tool to help loved ones of rape victims to understand the tragedy that continues to occur even after the rape has been committed.

The Writing Circle is a beautifully written, heartbreaking piece that will open your eyes to not only the issues of sexual assault, but to racism and biased viewpoints as well. Maart has written a novel with a greater purpose, one that will educate and enrich. If your book club is looking for a book to spark meaningful conversation and bring awareness to the group, no matter where you live, The Writing Circle will deliver that and more.


Unknown said...

Wow...sounds like an amazingly powerful book. My book pile is getting bigger by the minute.

Di said...

In case you didn't notice, your link is showing instead of being a hyperlink. Just thought you would want to know.

I am fascinated by South Africa and have read several books that take place there. I'll have to add this one to my overwhelming list.

I used to work with a woman who had been a stewardess with Pan Am back when they proudly called themselves stewardesses. She and her husband had traveled the world. I was young, newly married and fantasizing about being able to travel like that, so I asked her what her favorite place in the world was. She replied that it was a tie...New Zealand and Cape Town, South Africa. I think she was there before the situation became what you describe from the book.

Michelle Constantinescu said...

Thanks, Di! I fixed the link.

I was really amazed to learn about the variety of cultures and classes in South Africa. Lots of poor, but also lots of wealthy. I'll bet it's a fascinating place to visit, despite their grave problem. It seems this is something that has occurred since apartheid, although I'd have to look into it more to understand why. After reading this book, I'm definitely going to though. What an eye opener!