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A Blade of Grass

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  654 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Offers a perspective on what it means to be black and white in a country where both live and feel entitlement. Moving beyond its own time and place, this novel becomes a story of the price of freedom.
Paperback, 388 pages
Published November 11th 2004 by HarperCollins Canada (first published January 1st 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,125)
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Jackie
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
Niki
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
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
Kari
Oct 08, 2009 Kari rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
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
Ballinger Ballinger-Cole
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
CynthiaA

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
...more
Caleigh
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.
Just A. Bean
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.
MrsPL
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.
Ekar
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.
Gill
Atmospheric. Couldn't quite guess the time and place but it's set on the border of South Africa and either Zimbabwe or Mozambique... maybe De Soto decided to keep it vague. Strong imagery. Emotional. Very good characters.

I wonder why the author didn't use more South African words. He takes great care to make sure you understand that a "doringboom" is a thorn tree and translates several Zulu and Sotho words and phrases. Sometimes their use was inconsistent - "porridge" is used all the way throug
...more
Apollonia
It was great until the very end. Then I threw the book across the room in frustration.
Edith
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
Ashley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
rabbitprincess
Oct 20, 2009 rabbitprincess rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
...more
Katherine
Oct 23, 2007 Katherine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Geetha
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
Chris
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
Johanna
So hard to pick a rating for this book. Did I 'like it'? It's hard to like something that is so hard to read. It was a sad and disturbing story with many realistically flawed characters. I kept hoping something good would happen or someone would show a redeeming quality. But that didn't happen. And I don't think that it didn't happen should be held against the book. There are times/people/places that are very dark.
Melanie
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
...more
Pamela Pickering
Mar 02, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary
I loved this book. The author was eloquent, and wove a story that described his homeland of South Africa. The two main characters shared a struggle in what was a heartless land and their survival to exist under extreme conditions captures the readers heart. Very well written, without any bells and whistles, a great storyteller.
Arlene
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tina
this book was so beautifully written and it broke my heart! The story of Marit and Tembi is beautiful yet heart-wenching. Their bond through loss and suffering, their will to persevere in hard times I can't even begin to put into words how this book has effected me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, true art evokes emotion and this book is a work of art.
Diane
A very engaging story of two women in South Africa during war time.

Lovely language and imagery. A story of conflict, friendship, betrayal, and the incredibly tragic price for freedom.

I'd recommend this one.
Jill Manske
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
Lauren
I do like an unrelentingly sad novel. Gorgeous imagery and symbols. Maybe a little too sentimental but that didn't bother me. And rusk eating.

Definatly, a novelist to read more of.
maggie
Did everybody in apartheid times live as stereotypes? It seems so in this story. Entrenched racist Afikaaners, ambivalent, hopeful Britishers, resentful, disenfranchised Africans and horrific injustice mixed in with random, tragic acts of violence. It was easy to guess that in the end this situation would destroy all the protagonists and predictably poetic that the land itself, in it's harsh beauty, would pretty much be the only triumphant last man standing. I grew tired of the gush of descripti ...more
Elaine
Another book about the ugly effects of apartheid in the midst of a beautiful country. The relationship between two women, one white and one black. Marit's husband is killed by a bomb and so she has to take over the running of the farm. Tembi is her maid whose mother was killed walking along the road. Both women feel alone and develop a close friendship as they work the farm. Once a new law is put in place in the town, (white's only) the farm workers move away and leave the two women to fend for ...more
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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...
The Restoration Artist Emily Carr: A Penguin Lives Biography Pe Tukmiyat, Pe Tukmiyat: Lewis Desoto: San Jose Museum of Art, June 1-August 25, 1991 Lewis De Soto: Paranirvana (Self Portrait): [Exhibition] Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University

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