Vivian de Klerk’s sharp observations and brilliantly acerbic satirical wit make this multi-layered novel at once horrifying, shocking and poignant – and very, very funny.
by Vivian de Klerk
Picador Africa, APril 2022
(via The Lennon-Ritchie Agency)
In the small rural town of Qonda, South Africa, the power and water supplies are unreliable, property prices are down, and citizens are slowly suffocating in the acrid smoke from the municipal dump. Recently retired English teacher Megan Merton has lived here all her life, most of it at No. 8 Serpent Crescent. So who better than this self-styled pillar of society to shine a spotlight on the decline and dysfunction, not to mention the dubious activities, past and present, of many of her neighbours. Nefarious deeds and bad behaviour deserve harsh treatment and appropriate retribution, if not consignment to one of Dante’s fiendish nine circles of hell. At least that’s what Megan believes – in fact she’s been taking matters into her own hands, unnoticed, for years. And now she has decided to write it all down, to shake all of the skeletons loose, and rejoice in the inventive punishments she devised and personally delivered to the wicked.
Then her neighbour Elizabeth Cardew, a lecturer in Classical Studies, suffers a stroke and Megan is entrusted with the keys to No. 9. While Elizabeth begins a long recovery at the local care facility, Megan relishes the chance to snoop. Curious as to ‘what a stroke victim looks like’, she decides to visit and see for herself. A bond develops between the two women – one a cold and calculating sociopath, the other a courageous and lonely academic – something that takes both of them by surprise.
Vivian de Klerk was born in 1954 in Grahamstown, South Africa. She served as Professor of Linguistics at Rhodes University, where she spent 24 years as an academic, devoted to teaching and research, and then 7 years as Dean of Students. She has published numerous scholarly articles and 2 academic books during that time, but now she is having fun, enjoying herself, indulging in writing pure fiction. Her debut novel, Not to Mention was awarded the Gerald Kraak writing grant.