Sharmilla and Other Portraits

Sharmilla and Other Portraits

Published by Jacana, 2010

Police question a Cape Town female escort about the whereabouts of her client, the mysterious and impassioned Mr C. An elderly writer reflects on her experiences of the struggle and the complicated allegiances it has brought her. A father works together with his daughter to bring, as he thinks, Bach to Africa.

Sharmilla and Other Portraits offers a dynamic series of insights into a South Africa in edgy transition. Its vivid and varied narratives follow a range of displaced children, mothers, and domestic workers, a stadium manager, an AIDS patient and an office secretary, as they look in on the new and changing situation. In Sharmilla and Other Portraits Boehmer distils a compelling cycle of radiant snapshots detailing lived lives and their interwoven and secret undercurrents.

 

Elleke Boehmer brings to her stories two qualities that all too often are mutually exclusive: the lucidity of her intelligence and the passion of her engagement.

—André Brink

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Perceptive, new stories.

—Caryl Phillips

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The accurate simplicity is astonishing, especially because it is present in all her portraits.

—Tshepo Tshabalala, Star Tonight

Nile Baby

Nile Baby

Published by Ayebia, 2008

Nile Baby tells the story of two quirky young friends who discover a 90-year-old fetus in the laboratory storeroom of their school. Alice and Arnie set out on two very different journeys to return the specimen to its rightful home, leading them to discover not only their absent fathers, but also other buried and surprising roots. Reunited at the end of their adventures, they find that the fetus-creature will finally insist on its own manner of leaving them. This imaginative and daring novel explores the boundaries between the living and the dead and between the other and ourselves.

 

[A] strange and often unsettling odyssey across England … the novel asks us to consider the complex nature of race and belonging in contemporary Britain.

—Patrick Flanery, Times Literary Supplement

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Boehmer’s eye for domestic detail and ear for the nuances of speech whisk the reader in and out of different ways of being . . . Arnie gradually realizes that life is shaped in unforeseen ways by history.

—Angela Smith, The Independent

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Elleke Boehmer’s fourth novel is a remarkable change of gear: after the complex weaving of South African historical narratives in Bloodlines she has given us a focused, mesmerizing, and an occasionally stomach-turning story of two twelve-year-olds. … [The novel] grasps the enigmatic depths of human, and  continental, relations.

—Derek Attridge

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[A] moving portrayal of friendship …

—Mariss Stevens, NELM News

Bloodlines

Bloodlines

Published by David Philip, 2000

Short-listed for the Sanlam Prize

This compelling historical novel about the birth of the new South Africa explores the moving friendship between two women thrown together by an act of terror, and asks searching questions about the power of testimony and reconciliation, and the price we pay for the pain of the past.

 

[A]n engrossing and intriguingly told chapter in anti-imperial history.

—J. M. Coetzee

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[A] postcolonial fantasia … an imaginative exploration of the possibilities of connectedness. … The skilful tracing of bloodlines through several generations makes of a desperate act of violence a token of regeneration.

—Michiel Heyns, Sunday Independent

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[A] journey into the possible … an extremely good read.

—Cape Argus

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Bloodlines is an engaging and compelling book binding a potent theme and memorable characters into a brisk narrative … the writing shows a controlled resonance, the sign of a talent that must not be ignored.

—Times Literary Supplement

An Immaculate Figure

An Immaculate Figure

Published by Bloomsbury, 1993

Rosandra White is the proverbial perfect blonde. Exquisitely proportioned, desirable, her pale beauty exerts a powerful and dangerous allure. When she meets her childhood admirer Jem after years of risky liaisons, he finds that she has become a figure of unnerving intrigue.

 

[R]emarkable restraint and subtlety.

—West Africa

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[A] very clever book indeed. … It adopts the aesthetic appropriate to a culture in a politically hopeless age.

—Jenny Turner, The Guardian

Screens Against the Sky

Screens Against the Sky

Published by Bloomsbury and Penguin, 1990

Short-listed for the David Higham Prize

Set in South Africa in the late seventies, this novel describes the relationship between a white mother and her daughter, locked in a confined and self-absorbed world of domestic tension, until Annemarie starts work at a clinic for blacks.

 

A brilliant handling of an obsessional mother-daughter relationship … . Her descriptions are achingly acute.

—Financial Times

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An astonishing debut … swift, deft … expertly told … With a mordant wit, she shows how discrimination can become as natural as breathing, and as unselfconscious.

—Penny Perrick, Sunday Times

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Eloquently expressive.

—The Guardian

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A beautifully authentic insight into a society turned in on itself in the face of black deprivation.

—Wendy Woods

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Elegant, percipient writing.

—Zoe Heller, Observer