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A Blade of Grass

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  878 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
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A Blade of Grass is a graceful and stunning epic set in 1970s South Africa, on a remote farm owned by a newly married couple. The mistress of the house, Marit, is young, recently orphaned, easily intimidated, and unaccustomed to rural life. With no close neighbors or friends, Marit feels isolated in the house while her husband w
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 24, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes when I finish a really good book I just can’t wait to dash off to the computer and write my review – I want to tell everyone about it. That’s the way I feel about A Blade of Grass by South African/Canadian author Lewis Desoto, which was longlisted for the Booker in 2004. It’s a story of an inter-racial friendship set on the contested South African frontier in the 1970s during the apartheid era. I found it to be a remarkable debut novel that was engaging from the very beginning yet mana ...more
Jo-Ann Murphy
This was a violent long walk to nowhere. It had possibilities but they remain unrealized. Marit was weak and long suffering who never grew into her power. Tembi had strength but did not use it wisely. the relationship between the two was not fully developed and not as complex as it should have been. None of the male characters had redeeming qualities. It did not live up to the promises on the book jacket. I don't feel I learned anything from reading it and don't think much will stick with me. It ...more
Sep 03, 2009 Jackie rated it really liked it
The most literary book I have read in some time--it is a work of real craftsmanship. Lovely imagery, gorgeous use of language--this author could be studied as easily as any in our canon. The story is set on a small farm in South Africa during apartheid. The main characters are a young white woman named Marit, the owner of the farm, and a young black woman named Tembi. After a tragic occurrence, the two become friends and partners in running the farm. The book explores their sincere affection for ...more
Apr 23, 2010 Niki rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is incredible. I won't give out any spoilers, but this story is about two women - one European, one native South African - whose lives intersect and become connected .. during the last throes of the rule of apartheid. Their relationship is not straight-forward, but complicated, and the author explores each women's prejudices and fears in a manner that feels very honest and realistic. While these women need each other, love each other and depend on each other for their very surviva ...more
Oct 07, 2009 Kari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kate, jana, peggy
Shelves: my-top-fiction
A friend loaned me this book, saying she thought I'd enjoy it. I read up on its reviews and wasn't too impressed. Apparently the critics weren't fans.

I read all 389 pages in 24 hours. It was incredible and I could not put it down. Not perfect, but incredible. Having grown up in Africa (although not South Africa), the race relations aspect in this book fascinated me because I've never seen it put so well into words.

The story was a great balance of depth without pointlessness and action without m
Teresa Mills-clark
I found myself speed reading over paragraphs if not chapters, initially to reach the point where I felt engaged with the story. For that reason I rated the book 2 instead of 3. Even at the end, I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to rate the book any higher. If you wish to read about S. Africa as it carried itself into apartheid this story is written by a S African white male who was a young boy in that era, prior to emigrating to Canada and leaving it all behind. So, in that sense, the author was ...more
Mar 29, 2017 Doris rated it really liked it
I'm giving it a 4.5, it wasn't a 5, but it wasn't a 4. It was good it kept me reading, it is a hard topic to write about I think. I don't know a lot about the situation in time for that country but I do have a small understanding and from my basic knowledge I think the author did a good job of showing the racial struggle of that time. In the book it portrayed both sides in a no win situation at the hands of the government but then..... there is Tembi and Marit.
Ballinger Ballinger-Cole
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pamela Pickering
Mar 02, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Women
Shelves: favorites
I think the book's synopsis leads the reader to believe there is a little more "action" in the book than there really is. However don't let that deter you. The story is mainly one of a relationship between two women of two cultures. They are both dealing with the loss of a loved one and begin to work together to accomplish a shared goal. Not knowing much about South Africa (especially in the 1970's)I really appreciated the cultural and sociological aspects of this novel. The writing flows easily ...more
It's difficult for me to understand why this book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, although I must admit literature is not my area of expertise.
It's a bleak story, lurching from one disaster to the next with minimal respite. DeSoto writes in a strangely passionless tone of voice. The frequent Afrikaans phrases are at times so wrong that they hardly make sense (of course, that would only bother a person who speaks the language). Would it have been so hard to find somebody to edit?
It also

There was so much to admire in this novel, I enjoyed it very much. Desoto uses language like a painter uses colour. Sparingly in some places, vibrantly in others, resulting in an image that shows us more than people, more than a place. Desoto creates beauty and violence, home and isolation, hope and despair, love and hatred, loyalty and abandonment, freedom and imprisonment. This story is set during the apartheid years of South Africa's history, and I admire the way Desoto avoids stereotypical
Allan Zimmerman
The author portrayed the tragic situation of South Africa through the eyes of the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, it is not a happy ending. While conciliation may have been possible between the women and maybe mutual benefit occurring for the two the world around them conspires to prevent this from happening. While most of the violence is perpetuated by males, I noticed that most of the Boer women weren't portrayed any more accommodating the the men. I prefer stories of fixable situations. Howev ...more
Just A. Bean
Mar 22, 2012 Just A. Bean rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
A beautiful setting and I loved the set up, which was part of the problem. I didn't want to read another story, written by a man, about two women uniting against adversity and inevitably failing, so I left it when they were doing well and imagined a happy ending. I also found the writing style rather detached.
Feb 19, 2011 Caleigh rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, book-club
What an incredibly depressing book! Beautifully written and yet almost painful to read, especially the last part where the heroine is literally dragging herself around half dead. I didn't particularly like any of the characters which didn't help motivate me to finish, but I did so for the sake of book club. I hope they appreciate it.
Dec 21, 2010 MrsPL rated it it was ok
While the writing in this book was beautiful, I didn't enjoy the story itself very much. I found the main character annoying, and by the end I felt like the inevitable was just being dragged out with twists and turns that seemed somewhat contrived.
Jul 31, 2007 Ekar rated it did not like it
Shelves: alreadyread
I found this book too 'cinematic' for my liking. It was almost like the author was hoping to get a movie deal because there were so many movie cliche's in it. But I also didn't really like the characters so I didn't enjoy it.
Mar 23, 2011 Apollonia rated it did not like it
It was great until the very end. Then I threw the book across the room in frustration.
Alison Hardtmann
Nov 25, 2016 Alison Hardtmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-but-unowned
This book. In A Blade of Grass, Lewis DeSoto took a place and a time, a complicated, beautiful place at a complicated, horrible time and threw it repeatedly in the reader's face. And for all of that (and there is a lot of that), it is primarily a story of a tenuous friendship between two women who should have never become friends, except that they were both lonely and alone.

Tembi grew up in the place her people had always lived, until the man came and told them they would all have to go somewhe
Oct 11, 2016 Liz added it
Sad and unforgettable book about life on a farm in South Africa during apartheid and revolution.
Jan 10, 2009 rabbitprincess rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with a high tolerance for description and extremely introspective characters
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: boyfriend's mum
This is not my kind of book at all. Overly descriptive, vague and empty-feeling, and characters living in their heads instead of in the real world. I should have taken my cue from the first chapter, which is ridiculously grandiose in its description, and left the book there. But no, I felt I hadn't been fair enough to it, so on I read, until this afternoon, when I decided that if I preferred staring mindlessly off into space on the bus instead of reading, the book probably had to go.

This book us
Oct 23, 2007 Katherine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: farm dwellers, those interested in South African history
I knew nothing about this book before I picked it up but decided to read it after trudging through an incredibly tedious manuscript, when I opened to a random page and read "her breasts on his chest, the warmth of his skin under her hands, and the firmness of his body against the juncture of his thighs." Well, it was the distraction I needed.

Turns out it's about South Africa during the Boer War. It really is a poignant story, of an independent woman and life on a farm--two themes that generally
Feb 19, 2009 Edith rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-africa
I read this story of a newly married white couple on their south African farm (had to be Zimbabwe/formerly Rhodesia although the actual country was never mentioned) based on Julie's recommendation. The story was mesmerizing, eerie, and scary in turns. The story of the white/black struggle in that part of the world is full of complications. The incredibly hardworking Dutch Boer settlers who first began to farm that area have serious roots in that land as of course, do the natives. The revolutiona ...more
May 30, 2013 Ashley rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 30, 2009 Geetha rated it liked it
This is the first book set in South Africa that I have read after "Cry the Beloved Country" which I read several years ago. The story set in apartheid South Africa of the '70s, centres around a farm owned by a young couple - Ben is an immigrant from England and Marit is Boer. The farm is close to the border of an un-named country. The first few pages describe the idyllic life on the farm with a white owner, black labourers. As the story proceeds life explodes into war and violence and tragedy. T ...more
Jul 25, 2015 Cardmaker rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To say that I enjoyed this book wouldn't be fully accurate. It was a tough read at times. However, I found the book engrossing and stimulating and inspiring of gratitude for the fact that I was fortunate enough to grow up in a country with a strong sense of human rights (although not always well practiced) and justice for all.

There were parts of the book that seemed a bit out of sync and perhaps disjointed but on the other hand, I suspect that the times written about (South Africa during the fig
Feb 25, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
This is a novel of South Africa. About war, race and survival. Marit's husband is killed by a road bomb, and she is left on her own to run their farm. But war is close at the border. She befriends her black housekeeper, brings her into the house and together their form a unique partnership, much to the disapproval of her neighbors. But soon all the neighbors are gone, fleeing from the uprising. Marit and Tembi do the best they can and work with and struggle against those who stumble onto their l ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Arlene rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jill Manske
Apr 16, 2013 Jill Manske rated it liked it
This was a disturbing book, on many levels. While it provides a snapshot of life in post-colonial South Africa for wealthy whites and poor blacks that helps educate us, it seems to reinforce stereotypes of both. The story is melancholy and tragic, and often brutal in its honesty. I just couldn't warm up to the main characters. It wasn't that they were so seriously flawed or uninteresting. But they seemed to slog through life in a haphazard way so that you just didn't care much about them. The un ...more
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Around the World: South Africa - Suzanne recommends: A Blade of Grass 1 12 Oct 25, 2011 05:35PM  
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Lewis DeSoto is a writer and artist. His new novel The Restoration Artist, is available now. His previous novel A Blade of Grass, published by HarperCollins, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004. He is also the author of the short biography, Emily Carr, published by Penguin Books Canada.

More about Lewis DeSoto...

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