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Deon Meyer writes a great story. Having grown up in central Africa in the 70s and 80s with South Africa closed off as a mysterious, inaccessible, veiled land to the south, these stories paint revealing and enchanting pictures of the people, place and transition to the new reality of today's South Africa. He shows with effortless grace how the complexity of the country's history looms imposingly in each character's journey through life. The people he describes are full, rich, flawed, sympathetic and compelling. The context of class and race from Afrikaner, Zulu, Xhosa, English in which the characters operate is complex and satisfyingly surprising. Meyer perfectly captures the immense presence of the sky, landscape and nature that one feels when in Africa. All of this rich layering of character, language and history bring the story to life to the point where you can almost feel, smell and taste the air, heat and dust. And the thrill of the chase makes for long nights when it is nearly impossible to switch off the iPod.
Simon Vance is an excellent reader and I enjoy listening to him immensely particularly when the characters speak in variations of British accents. Vance is not the right narrator for a story that requires a native South African's facility with regional and tribal accents. Listen to Saul Reichlin read "Dead Before Dying". There is a difference in the way a poor white from the Cape flats speaks compared with a farmer from deep in Kwazulu. The accents and regionalisms are as important in telling these stories as the narrative and Vance doesn't come close to Reichlin's rich and textured delivery.
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