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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  315 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Mol Benade, her brothers Treppie and Pop, and son Lambert live in a rotting government house, which is the only thing they have, other than decaying appliances that break as soon as they're fixed, remembrances of a happy past that never really existed, and each other-a Faulknerian bond of familial intimacy that ranges from sympathetic to cruel, heartfelt to violently inces ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by The Overlook Press (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

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Although the setting is a poor (white trash) family, The Benades, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Africa, the story could be regarded as the universal plight of the poorest of the poor in, especially, a capitalistic society. Sociologically it could be justified as a testimony of how a social system worked for all its participants or not. In the Benade family's case neither Apartheid, nor the soon to be Post Apartheid era did anything to drag the family out of the miserable life they ...more
Holly Foley (Procida)
This book beats out The Glass Castle as the portrait of the THE MOST dysfunctional family. Easily squeamish should not attempt this novel. It is set in early nineties South Africa which was a very turbulent time period. This extremely poor white family gets crashed on the rocks of the turbulence both from within their family, and within the community. The characters are intricately explored. The dialect is difficult but fascinating (there's a glossary) Beware of intense descriptions of incest an ...more
Brilliant, enthralling... emotionally draining, but excellently written.
Charmaine Elliott
I must admit to getting in my car and driving up and down the streets of Triomf to view the house where the Benade's live - so real did this family become in the reading. Like the observer of a hideous car crash, I just wanted to catch a glimpse of these people. The terms 'poor white' and 'white trash' have been bandied about for as long as I can remember. Until this book I must confess that I did not truly understand the breadth, the depth and the horror of these phrases. With a 60 year lifespa ...more
Stefania Sorbara
Aggrovigliati tra loro “come le interiora di un frigorifero, con il motore fritto per il voltaggio sbagliato”, così sono i fratelli Benade e il figlio-nipote Lambert. “Troppo pochi, persino per loro stessi”, “Moll e Pop e Treppie e Lambert non si bastano neanche lontanamente”, eppure si serrano, s’aggrovigliano, fino a strangolarsi, perché la famiglia è la sola “prospettiva necessaria a vivere e a sopravvivere”, “l’unica cosa che conta”, sopra tutto e nonostante tutto, e se anche ha dei segreti ...more
A bit long for me, but I am not known for my readerly patience. While it evokes SA social awareness and history, it also stretches outward. I think a reader who knows nothing about SA history or politics can appreciate the novel for its insights into "white trash" existence. That's what I liked about the book. It's also useful for Freudian thinking: you'll discover some new, twisted triangles in this book.
Rozanne de Jager
Uiteindelik!! So gesukkel om hierdie boek klaar te maak. Hy lees baie moeilik, maar dit is 'n baie goeie boek, baie kras, maar die karakters is elkeen so uniek en kry mens eintlik baie simpatie met elkeen van hulle.
Amanda Brinkmann
This book is NOT for the feint-hearted. It conjurs up images of the ' poor, uneducated, whites', that became one of the many legacies of a post-apartheid South Africa. Protected before, simply because of their skin colour, living in a decaying government house, slowly but surely being surrounded by the ' new' black and coloured emerging middle-class, who are upgrading these homes - the central characters of this book, create very real, extremely disturbing, but a very honest picture of this prev ...more
Although this is an excellent book I would not recommend it to anyone who is not familiar with South Africa as it is full of local colloquialisms. It is these touches that lend aunthenticity & it would be frustrating for a reader who doesn't know what they refer to, despite a good glossary in the back of the book.
A horrible book. A vast landscape of barrenness. So awful it is difficult to come up with adjectives to fully express the desparate bleakness of this book. Any time spent reading it is completely wasted
Jillian Goldberg
I could not get past the first 20 pages of this incredibly turgid, horrific novel. Perhaps it suffered in translation. I consider myself a reader with a strong stomach but this defeated me.
I just couldn't get into it. It was a hard book to read - both the subject matter and the writing - and it didn't pay off for me.
Derek Baldwin
Disturbing tale of Seff Effrican po white trash
Read it in Afrikaans if you can. I had a translation into English but since it is about an Afrikaans family and the author is Afrikaans it would be my first choice. Will find a copy and read it again.
A hundred pages overlong but a powerful, disturbing insight into a low-income family that is relevant not just in SA but here in the UK too.
Sonia Evans
So tragic, so raw, so broken, so sad, yet there are few books that have moved me like this one did!
Aug 16, 2014 Nina added it
Ek verstaan dit en het dit behandel op varsity, maar kan nie sê dit was 'n plesier nie!
abbandonato per manifesta incapacità (mia). Mi chiedo che scelta editoriale sia ma probabilmente sono io che non capisco
Shocked me & still haunts me
Sep 20, 2014 Carla added it
really sad
Ik vond het moeilijk om lang achter elkaar te lezen. De familie leeft in zo'n uitzichtloze situatie. Ze kunnen niet anders dan bij elkaar blijven maar doen elkaar zoveel leed aan. Er is mij veel ontgaan van wat er gezegd werd over het oude en nieuwe zuid-afrika. De karakters werden mij in de loop van het boek wel dierbaar.
Gelezen na het magistrale Agaat en dat was misschien geen goed idee, ook al zit ik een half jaar in Zuid-Afrika en ken ik de meeste toespelingen. Zwaar onderwerp dat subtiel wordt benaderd, maar niet kernachtig genoeg. Moeten doorbijten rond 3/4, maar blij dat ik het uitgelezen heb.

This is probably a good choice for a South African reader or, at least someone with a great understanding of South African culture. It's been a difficult read for me, but, I'm sure that's due to my ignorance if South African culture.
An amazing read to top off a month long trip to SA. Without knowing the history and culture it would be hard to follow, but these are some amazing characters who I would never want to meet but can't seem to forget.
read it in afrikaans and it was special, i wonder if in english or other language is the same - a shocking story however - read the authors other novel too (agaat)
i'm looking forward to her next novel
Not an easy book to read, but I think it is brilliant. Marlene has an incredible talent and the translation by Leon de Kock works very well. Wish I could read the original.
Nov 11, 2008 Sophia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in people
Recommended to Sophia by: my mom
fantasties. dat sy met soveel deernis kan skryf oor mense wat ek andersins sou kon miskyk – in fact, dat sy die sagte kant wys van mense wat my politically repulse – is humbling.
Grethe Koen
Any South African would be depriving themselves greatly by not reading this book. It speaks on perhaps one of South Africa's most taboo subjects- poor whites.

what a messed up life - a story of a "white trash" family in the apartheid era; cannot sympathize with any of the characters but somehow feel sorry for them.
I tried my level best to read this book. In fact, I even made it past the halfway mark! But it was awful. Really. I couldn't finish it.
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Marlene van Niekerk is a South African author who is best known for her novel Triomf. Her graphic and controversial descriptions of a poor Afrikaner family in Johannesburg brought her to the forefront of a post-apartheid society, still struggling to come to terms with all the changes in South Africa. In translation by Leon de Kock, this book was critically acclaimed in the US and UK, and was film ...more
More about Marlene Van Niekerk...
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