Telling of uncomfortable story thought-provoking and beautifully done. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer)
The publication of Durban author Z P Dala’s debut novel, What About Meera, has been overshadowed by the attack on the author by brainless thugs following her praise for the writing style of Salman Rushdie in a public forum. And that overshadowing is a pity, because her book deserves to stand on its own feet.
It tells the story of Meera, who, having grown up on a sugar farm near Tongaat, is forced into a loveless and abusive marriage. On the surface, it could have been a sensible move: her husband is a doctor, upwardly mobile, and an eligible bachelor. And it offers an escape from the extremely dodgy holy man who rules her community, particularly the young female members of it.
But Meera has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, and has to escape again, this time from her husband. She flees to Dublin where she finds work in a care home for autistic children. She has had the courage to make a break, but damage has been done and she slides into depression, making a number of disastrous choices and decisions.
Dala moves her narrative fluently between Meera’s early life on the North Coast (often shown with bleak, black humour), her marriage, and her life in Ireland. The writing is crisp and sparkles with fine descriptions, and the reader will root for Meera – until close to the end when the author shows us, brutally, that as W H Auden wrote: “Those to whom evil is done/ Do evil in return.”
Meera’s story is an uncomfortable one, but Dala’s telling of it is thought-provoking and beautifully done. Margaret von Klemperer
Margaret von Klemperer is the former Books Editor of the Witness and the author of Just a Dead Man. “What About Meera” is published in softcover by Umuzi and retails at R190. ISBN: 978-1-4152-0745-1 (print); ISBN: 978-1-4152-0628-7 (e-book), and ISBN: 978-1-4152-0629-4 (PDF)