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The Smell of Apples

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  802 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Set in the bitter twilight of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, The Smell of Apples is a haunting story narrated by eleven-year-old Marnus Erasmus, who records the social turmoil and racial oppression that are destroying his own land. Using his family as a microcosm of the corroding society at large, Marnus tells a troubling tale of a childhood corrupted, of unexpect ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published March 15th 1997 by Picador (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Hayes
May 28, 2009 Hayes rated it it was ok
Ahhh... the dénouement! Defined by Wikipedia it is
a series of events that follow the climax of a drama or narrative, and thus serves as the conclusion of the story ... from the Old French word denoer, "to untie", and from nodus, Latin for "knot." Simply put, dénouement is the unraveling or untying of the complexities of a plot.

Sounds easy, but why then is there such a problem with just this aspect of so many novels, and this one is no exception.

It is the story of Marnus, a pre-adolescent Afrikan
...more
Jennybeast
Oct 08, 2007 Jennybeast rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read this book for the portrait of South Africa, which was moving. I feel that it connected me to a time and a place in a believable way. I do not understand why the author decided to add random sexual trauma #3 to the end of the book. For me it did not connect in any way to anything else that was going on. Like the Kite Runner, it took a fascinating book and turned it into sensationalistic dreck. I absolutely believe that childhood sexual abuse occurs more frequently than we want to admit, an ...more
Cheryl
This book is about a young boy growing up Afrikaan during the 1970s South African apartheid era in a fairly privileged family with an authoritative father. The child narrator was a great move here by Mark Behr because even though I did not agree with the views of the narrator, I was able to see things from that point of view. Very descriptive prose in some places, great use of dialogue to showcase character flaw. Though the book really did not talk about apartheid as I thought it would, it discu ...more
Tony
Feb 12, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Marnus, a young Afrikaaner boy growing up in South Africa during the Apartheid years. It is a moving account of his childhood experiences and of his interactions with the world around him. 'The Smell of Apples' was a enjoyable read but also an insightful one. The way Aparteid touches Marnus'life defines his attitude and relationships with others. His family live a privileged life but there seems to be the underlying, ever-present threat that everything they and their forebea ...more
Anna Chrysostomou
Apr 11, 2015 Anna Chrysostomou rated it it was ok
As a Grade 12 student in South Africa, I was obligated to read a South African novel of my choice, in compliance with our syllabus. Although it sounds terribly unpatriotic of me, I don't care much for South African literature. Although I am proud of my country and its population, I feel little connection to its history (perhaps because my parents only arrived here from Cyprus and Romania in 1992); this country's history is plagued by propagandistic and imperialist foreign powers who exploited th ...more
Nicole Gervasio
So, I'll admit: I totally misread this novel the first time, and I carried that misreading into a graduate class this fall (five years after my first read) and ended up liking it far less once my classmates clued me in on the fact that I was blind/a moron. Since my misreading won't actually be a spoiler, I'll tell you what I'd remembered happening: I'd thought the General had gotten with Marnus's father, not another adult (to tell you this would be the spoiler). To me, this knowledge helped make ...more
Jennifer
Jan 18, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This was a striking book about South Africa in the 1970s with a consideration of the harrowing legacy of this period. Whether or not they agree with it, most students of colonial/post-colonial literature are familiar with Frederic Jameson's controversial thesis made in 1986 that all third-world literature is national allegory. Personally, I think that because an author loses control of his work once a reader picks it up to read, it is difficult to come to a conclusive decision such as this one. ...more
Shirley Exall
Feb 21, 2017 Shirley Exall rated it liked it
I enjoyed this and found it very moving in many parts. The perceptions and memories of a returnee and the attitudes of those he had left behind, mixed in with the pain of family relationships and bitterness and anger, all provide material for an incandescent explosion, and one reads this wondering when the explosion will come. It never really does (there are some minor spurts), and maybe that's a good thing because it might have been too melodramatic had it done so. Anyway, the most important th ...more
Emilie
Sep 10, 2011 Emilie rated it it was ok
This book was a very quick read, only about 200 pages, and it is set in early 70'ties South Africa. I decided to read the book because I have a big school assigment coming up and I thought I might analyze this novel and wrtite about SA and Apartheid in English and history. I'm not sure I'm gonna do that. Don't get me wrong there were some things I liked about the book and I don't regret reading it (it was very pretty short, but I just don't think I could make a 5-page analysis about it. I was qu ...more
Lulu
Mar 02, 2009 Lulu rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, africa
The Smell of Apples. Evocative of summer days, sunny fields, and a fruit that's great eaten out of hand or chopped up and presented in a pie or salad. It does not bring to mind the last decades of apartheid, the cruelty of evil men, or a child discovering the worst parts of human nature. Mark Behr's novel follows the life of a privileged, white 11-year-old boy named Marnus Erasmus in 1970s South Africa. Marnus and his best friend, Frikkie, are keenly aware of the sharp racial divides in their co ...more
Joy Wags
Feb 15, 2017 Joy Wags rated it really liked it
A very sad tale beautifully told. The characters are entirely convincing and the smells and tastes of the countryside are palpable. I really enjoyed this and wanted the characters to pull through to some kind of salvation. Without killing the plot for others, I have to say that the sense of doom pervades the novel all the way to the end and one wonders if there will be any bright future for people like this.
David
Feb 09, 2010 David rated it really liked it
I have to revise some of my previous remarks and rating of this novel as I proceed to write my paper. While there is not much in way of stylistic beauty (perhaps the most significant attribute for me in reading a novel), I think that it is acute in its observations of the way that the family and nation place heteronormative policing pressures on an individual, our poor 11-year old Marnus.

I would love to spend more time thinking about how it utilizes Moby Dick as an intertext. It's definitely us
...more
Alistair
Nov 07, 2009 Alistair rated it liked it
i liked this about a boy growing up in an afrikaans christian household in the 1970's in south Africa . the story is told in one long chapter with interspersed passages describing the boy as a grown up soldier fighting the guerillas in Angola where he dies .

clearly the family are decent people trying to maintain their way of life against the oncoming changes when apartheid is dismantled and i really enjoyed the intricacies of family life and the boy's blood brother friendship and his relationshi
...more
Ruby
Mar 22, 2011 Ruby rated it it was ok
This book is all over the place. It is set in apartheid South Africa and written from the perspective of a young boy, but then there are these little flash-forwards interspersed throughout of the young boy as a grown man and a soldier at war. That doesn't sound like such a terrible idea, but all it does is make the story feel even more disjointed. In addition to this obvious slapped on message to the reader that war is hell, you will also discover that racism is insidious, parents are tragically ...more
Lori Clark-Erickson
Lexile: 1050
Historical Event / Time Period: 1970 19s, Apartheid in South Africa
Liked: I liked learning about the different cultures and languages in South Africa.
Disliked: I really didn 19t like how long that it took to get to the climax of the story and it had random inappropriate parts that I felt didn 19t really relate to the book.
Summary: The Smell of Apples is set in the 1970 19s during the apartheid in South Africa. The main character, Marnus, faces struggles throughout his life but they
...more
Bookguide
Apr 14, 2013 Bookguide rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
My review was delayed so that I had completely forgotten everything about this book, but just flicking through the last pages of the book reminded me of a couple of terrible incidents. The children are indoctrinated into the supposed glory and bravery of the Afrikaners and are not allowed to question their parents' beliefs. Even though they are largely brought up by a black woman, she is never part of the family. Due to the violent nature of society and unthinking prejudice against the blacks an ...more
Delta
Feb 06, 2015 Delta rated it liked it
Shelves: z2015
Like many of the reviewers, I thought this book was a bit heavy. Not literally weighty; it had a lot of terribly traumatic events take place, but many of them did nothing to seriously progress the story. Even though I thought the flash forward sections were done well, there was real no connection to 11-year old boy. Yes, we are suppose to understand the boy will become the soldier, but the transition is missing. I will say that the perspective was fantastic; one of the few books that used the fi ...more
Azeza
Mar 26, 2013 Azeza rated it it was ok
Had to read it for a literary Assignment. I was shocked in the end. Really? Did that really have to happend? I know the author wants to show us how looks are deceiving, how an apple can be rotten from the inside, but still shiny from the outside. But smell never deceives.

I think the thoughts from Masrnus in 1988 didn't add much to the story. We know how war is, we knoe how horrible it can be. Nothing surprising there. I also thought that the Marnus we got to know through the book was a completel
...more
Tessa
Dec 07, 2013 Tessa rated it liked it
Shelves: south-africa, 2013
I read this book while staying In the area where it was set. I appreciated this connection. I also appreciated seeing how permeating the racism was in every-day life as this white boy absorbed the messages that surrounded him. However, I am annoyed by a reading yet another decent book that spends its last section turning the direction of unhealthy relationships. In this book, it felt like a sensational add-on rather than an important part of the book. I'm disappointed this book is lauded to be s ...more
Dmehringer
Oct 04, 2009 Dmehringer rated it did not like it
A time in history I don't know much about. I liked that the story is told from the boy's innocent point-of-view. Don't like anything else. The book is one long chapter for 200 pages. Story reflects the racism and arrogance of 1970's S Africa, but no adult ever steps in to tell the reader what's going on. Lots of words in Africaan dialect, with no clue what any of the phrases mean in English. Plus another boy abused for no apparent reason? I don't recommend this book!
Jessica
Jun 13, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan
May 12, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
Coming on the heels of reading In a Different Time, Peter Harris' memoir of his work as an anti-apartheiddefense attorney, Mark Behr's debut novel extends my stay in South Africa. A tale of lost innocence and a disturbing portrait of Afrikaner society in the mid 1970's; Behr's writing is quiet, understated, and chilling. I wish Goodreads offered a half star option - this one would be a 3.5* for me
Alícia
A ver, la historia es guay y la segunda mitad ha sido bastante más interesante que la primera, pero no he logrado conectar con ninguno de los personajes y en muchas ocasiones me he perdido mucho porque no sé gran cosa (bueno, no sé nada) de la geografía y la historia de Sudáfrica. Le doy tres estrellitas porque creo que si conociera un poco el país podría haber entendido mejor de qué hablaban y seguramente habría disfrutado más de la novela, pero no es mi caso.
Philip Lane
Jun 21, 2012 Philip Lane rated it liked it
I thought this was well written and I got a good sense of the location and the life of a boy in South Africa. However I also felt it was somewhat lightweight in terms of interesting content - it has a startling ending of course which I can't say too much about so as not to spoil it. However that ending seemed to come out of the blue and throws up issues which are not addressed as it is quickly covered up and then the book ends. I am left a bit bemused.
Min
Jun 19, 2012 Min rated it really liked it
It's a book about Apartheid from a White, middle-class, Afrikaans boy's perspective, perhaps to explain, perhaps to justify, mostly to understand. One of the things that was pointed out to me and I found quite profound about this story was how much Apartheid operated on, besides fear, illusion, blind selfishness and dogmatism, love.
Angela
May 22, 2016 Angela rated it it was ok
The story itself is written from an untraditional point of view with regards to South African apartheid which many people fail to think from. Whilst the writing was interesting at times the plot was often muddled and climax was at first confusing and later just horrific. An interesting book but I would not rush to recommend it.
chucklesthescot
May 15, 2010 chucklesthescot rated it did not like it
I was expecting a pro or anti-apartheid book but that barely got a mention in this book. I found it a dull book with a dull family and nothing interesting going on and then a visiting paedophile is thrown in for a chapter to molest the boy's friend. Not exactly an inspiring read and certainly not the best read to come out of Africa.
Sandy
Nov 09, 2008 Sandy rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, contemp-fic
Interesting, poignant novel about growing up in white S. Africa with all its associated prejudices and illusions. I felt much compassion for the young boy whose father shatters the boy's idealized version of the world - how painful and harsh the realities that our parents are not perfect.
Amos Kovacs
Sep 30, 2011 Amos Kovacs rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynn
Oct 07, 2015 Lynn rated it really liked it
I knew this would be sad and full of terrible things, but it is very well written, and although I did not enjoy the story I can agree that this is a powerful book and worth the sadness. On a minor note,I did not like the font my edition was published in - clumsy and tiring to read.
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