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Empire Settings: A Novel of South Africa
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Empire Settings: A Novel of South Africa

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  68 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Danny Divin is a young white man in South Africa who enters into an illicit romance with a mixed race schoolgirl, the daughter of a black domestic servant. When social constraints force Danny to end the romance, he travels to America with the hOut of Printes of starting a new life. There he meets Tesseba, a curious and trusting artist who takes him in and marries him to sa ...more
Paperback, 327 pages
Published June 28th 2010 by Chicago Review Press (first published August 1st 2001)
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Pamela Pickering
Hard to describe. Not really a story of love but one of family and loss. I had picked up this book several years ago and was unable to make it past the first 20 pages but this time I read it very swiftly. The story did not really follow the description on the back of the book so if you're about to read it, give up that expectation. It was told from veiwpoints of each of the main characters. At first, I found the varying viewpoints interruptive but later I thought it added more interest and infor ...more
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the story and the writing style.

The story about a life growing up in South Africa during apartheid and looking back on it from Boston. I particularly enjoyed how each character told their story without having the book feel fragmented. The book reminded me of childhood friends who moved to Canada from South Africa. I feel like I gained a better understanding of their story as well.

The rich language in the book transports you to different places as well as into the minds of each character.
Dec 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, africa
This is a first-person novel where the narrator changes with each chapter. It's a wistful love story about a budding romance cut short by the realities of apartheid in South Africa. An interesting enough book, I suppose, although quite a bit more soapy than what I usually read.

This was the tenth of a projected 19 consecutive Africa-related books I plan to read, and only the second that was a work of fiction. It's also yet another "white voice from Africa" that ended up on my reading list and it
Oct 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
not a well written novel, but has sparks of beauty and insight. sa is a rough ass place, but then from this fresh perspective of the author's, so is usa. you could say sa apartheid learned all the tricks it needed from good ole usa. this novel is about a comfortable sa white kid who immigrates to usa, then goes back to new sa, then comes back to usa. human racism can be terribly destructive, cruel, and disgusting. funny how we so easily take to it.
a note on white pine press of buffalo ny, i thin
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
I loved the beginnings of this book which has the voices of several family members talking about the changeover from apartheid to Mandela days in South Africa. And then the housekeeper too. I wish that the unrequited love part was not such an important part of the story because for me it was the most improbable. If the writer had skipped that and kept to the splintering of the family and the change in their lives, it would have been much more successful. I did enjoy it though!
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is simply stunning. The prose is lyrical, chock full of wonderful descriptions of South Africa, and manages to keep a firm balance between multiple narrators. The story is an enthralling tale of love, family, and loss, and Schmahmann handles the subjects of apartheid and the loss of one's home country very well, weaving it all together with very honest, personal emotions. A magnificent read.
Dr Penner
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very compelling book. The plot was entirely unique from my perspective. A bit of history, romance, and family drama told by a series of characters over a span of twenty-some years. I thought the prose was particularly well written and even captivating at times. I’ve been recommending this book to friends and family and I guess some strangers on the internet too.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone familiar with the effects of Apartheid
This was a different portrayl of life in South Africa during and post- Apartheid. Now, it's diffiulct to describe... Nonviolent. A love story without anything sexual (no Danielle Steele). Biracial "couple" torn apart in the beginning stages of dating...he moves away...she stays. They're always wondering about each other.

Surprise ending. Honestly, never saw it coming.

Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is about a Jewish man born in South Africa who had to leave at the age of 17. He settled in America but never recovered from leaving South Africa.
The sequel, Ivory from Paradise is better.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reminded me of Namibia in a way
Karen Eagle
Well written with beautiful descriptions of South Africa. This book could be used as an educational read for young adults, it dances around sex and violence while keeping the story line intact.
Louise Bailey
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was moved by the author's fluent skilful writing, the characters who feel like friends, the story told from several points of view. A story of love, loss and how our memories can deceive us.
Suzy Ruskin
This was a really good read.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booksburgh
Interesting perspective of apartheid from a Jewish South African and a good story as he discovers what love and home really mean.
Katz Nancy from NJ
rated it it was ok
Jul 28, 2011
Arlene Agree
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Nov 10, 2012
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Feb 29, 2008
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Feb 17, 2011
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Mar 31, 2011
Aline Baly
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Aug 14, 2017
Maurice Wijnen
Not enough about South Africa itself actually
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Apr 07, 2014
Riyan Akhmad
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Dec 25, 2011
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Oct 29, 2012
Richard Ciamaichelo
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Feb 15, 2014
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David Schmahmann was born in Durban, South Africa. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School, and has studied in India and Israel and worked in Burma. His first novel, Empire Settings, received the John Gardner Book Award, and his publications include a short story in The Yale Review and articles on legal issues.

He practices law in Boston, and lives in Weston, Massachusetts.

More about David Schmahmann...