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Friday, May 3, 2019


Vandermerwe has a concise, easy writing style and she moves the story along a good pace. Her descriptions are rich and vibrant. (Review by Keith Millar)

The author of this book, Meg Vandermerwe, is a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of the Western Cape. She has two previous publications to her credit. A short story collection titled The Place I Call Home and the critically acclaimed novel, Zebra Crossing.

She was born in South Africa in 1978 but was raised in Switzerland and received her rather extensive education in the United Kingdom.

Vandermerwe obviously has a good knowledge of the Cape West Coast and its people as she paints an alluring and authentic picture of the small un-named fishing village that is the setting for her novel, The Woman Of The Stone Sea.

While reading the story, one gets a real sense of the cluster of whitewashed fishermen’s cottages, the fishing boats pulled up onto the beach and, dominating it all, the wild sea with its ever-changing moods.

The story itself is one of bereavement, sorrow, redemption and friendship.

Fisherman Hendrik doesn’t have much to live for after his beloved wife Rebekkah walks into the ocean and is never seen again. Hendrik refuses to accept that she is dead and gone forever and is convinced she will eventually return.

He is also still mourning the loss of his brother Anton, an activist who was murdered by the security police during South Africa’s struggle for freedom of all its people.

Hendrik has become a recluse and is making a good effort to drink himself to death. When he rescues a wounded creature on the beach his fortunes start to take a change for the better.

The dark skinned, creature is a woman and has a fishtail. She may be a mermaid or possibly a mythical Xhosa water maiden which brings good fortune to those who help them, or even a Mamlambo, the fearsome river creature of Zulu folklore.

Hendrik hides the creature in his house while she recovers from her injuries.

In the meantime, Hendrik slowly manages to turn his life around with the help of old friend Sara, a woman who has also suffered misfortune, and the wise Xhosa school caretaker, Xolani.

Vandermerwe has a concise, easy writing style and she moves the story along a good pace. Her descriptions are rich and vibrant.

The only worry I had is that she uses many Afrikaans words and local colloquialisms in her writing and this may make it a bit difficult at times for anyone other than a bi-lingual South African to follow. There is no glossary provided to overcome this problem.

That been said, I found The Woman Of The Stone Sea to be a pleasant read, rather than one which I could not put down.

The Woman Of The Stone Sea is published by Umuzi. ISBN 978-1-4152-0938-7. Recommended Retail Price is R265. Also available in Afrikaans. – Keith Millar