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Karoo Boy Paperback – September 5, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (September 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030656
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 6.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,601,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Death divides a Cape Town family in Blacklaws's evocative but frustrating debut. The story, set in 1976 but narrated in a terse, foreboding and sometimes baffling present tense, begins with 14-year old Douglas Thomas's father accidentally killing his other son, Marsden (Douglas's twin), with an errant cricket pitch. Family disintegration follows: Douglas's father announces that he is "going away," and his mother decides that they're moving to Karoo—a "foreign, far, flat and bleak" place. In Karoo, Douglas befriends Moses, an old black man who works at the gas station and who cannot leave the area because his papers have been stolen. Between italicized flashbacks to Marsden and Sundays with Moses retooling a broken-down Volvo (they both dream of driving back to the ocean), Douglas falls for a girl named Marika. The novel zigzags between vivid descriptive passages and sudden bursts of violence that recall the social and political nightmare that was 1970s South Africa. The historical realities feel out of focus, however, and the characters' motives are often unclear. Though this is a coming-of-age tale, readers will be startled to learn that Douglas, when he finally returns to the seaside alone, is 18; this, along with the other narrative hinges in the story, feels sloppily handled for the sake of a rather ersatz lyrical style. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Readers familiar with South African idiom will feel right at home in this first-person, present-tense story of a white boy's coming-of-age at the height of apartheid in the 1970s. But even those who don't know the meaning of kaffirboetie, tackies, and hambawill recognize the aching personal truth and political horror. When Dad kills Douglas' twin in a freak accident with a cricket-ball on the beautiful Cape Town beach, Dad disappears, and Mom takes Douglas and her maid, Hope, into "exile" in a tiny town in Karoo, where the landscape is largely dust and thorn. Douglas finds love with a classmate and a father in Moses, a Xhosa ex-miner, also in exile without an official pass. The newspaper headlines are about the distant Soweto riots, but the vicious racism is part of daily life even in the hinterland. The story is in the details in this first novel: the exquisite sense of place, the tender intimacy, and the casual cruelty, from murder to being forced to use separate utensils. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

I was born in 1965 in Natal, South Africa. I was uprooted at 9 when my father landed a job on a wine farm in the Cape. At 14 I discovered South Africa was a world pariah and that black men were shot in their call for freedom. Baited as a kaffirboetie (a niggerlover), I became an outsider at Paarl Boys' High. I studied at Rhodes University and then I was drafted into the army. I would not carry a gun to defend the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela was in jail during all this time.

My novels so far (novels: Karoo Boy 2004 and Blood Orange 2005) draw on memories of my boyhood in apartheid South Africa. Bafana Bafana: a story of soccer, magic and Mandela (a fable for young folk) is a bid to draw the eye to the hazardous fate of street boys in Cape Town and to teach young folk around the world something about Mandela.

Customer Reviews

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This book is very well written, he has a great style.
D. Bryant
Karoo Boy is a book about growing up - a Bildungsroman that recalls Salinger's Catcher in the Rye with its sinewy language and the imaginative force of its images.
Fern Muleboot
This book has been my favorite summer read and I bet that you will think it is uniquely good, too.
A. Bennett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By metaphortracker on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Karoo Boy is an ambitious novel, in the sense that it tackles the really big themes that even angels (and definitely first-time novelists) approach with cautious tread: living in apartheid South Africa, growing up to consciousness, love and the loss of it, guilt and death. And yet Troy Blacklaws manages to tame these wild things, and bring them to rest in a compact novel, with a handful of well-drawn characters, surrounded by the vast impersonal canvas of the Karoo.

He is sensitive to the minutiae that make up a life, and he describes these in spare prose that paradoxically becomes lyrical in the repetition of the rhymes: "I paddle out through the ice-tea surf. The rising sun glints in the empty windows of the weekend train to Cape Town. I stand on a borrowed board. No flicks or tricks. The wave barrels. For a moment, I glide. Then the wave tumbles me. I fight it instead of going with it. Have I forgotten everything? I even forgot to dogleash the board to my foot. As I surface I hear the crack of the board on the rock. I wade up out of the water, feeling ashamed."

Karoo Boy is not only a welcome addition to the body of fiction now written by thirty-something South Africans, relating their experiences as teenagers during the unholy hey-day of apartheid. It is also a bloody good story, and it is well told.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Crawford on January 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
This beautifully-written book is full of rich characters and convincing settings, but what makes this book special is the story. The protagonist of this coming-of-age tale (set in the South Africa of 1976) must wrestle with deep and painful problems under adverse circumstances. The ending is a stunner. I reread it within weeks of first reading it. Best book I've read in a long time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fern Muleboot on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Karoo Boy is a book about growing up - a Bildungsroman that recalls Salinger's Catcher in the Rye with its sinewy language and the imaginative force of its images. Douglas's twin brother is killed in a freak accident in a beach cricket game, a striking image of the shattered social fabric and the brooding violence that lurked beneath the surface in the South Africa of the seventies. His father hops it. Douglas is banished with his mother, their servant Hope and the dog Chaka to the boondocks, far from Cape Town, on the edge of a South African nowhere. The book relates how he slowly comes to terms with his exile and the double loss of his father and his twin brother. Karoo Boy seems almost to glow in the harsh light of the South African veld as the author unwinds the vivid images of a world at the edges of civilisation. The tempo of each chapter is measured, and moves from chord to chord with the precision of a twelve-bar blues. The music of the seventies plays in the background of the book: Neil Young, the Doors, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan. And the writers who form the canon of good literature in white, private schools make up Douglas' education - Paton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Golding. The world of the growing boy - from the menacing biology lessons, to the pain of a cane on his hand, the sun on his skin, the smells and sounds of the desert, a boy's growing awareness of his own sexuality and his effect on others - are deftly drawn into a complex picture of growing up in this alien environment. Karoo Boy is full of tactile images that light up the prose like a match flare in the dark of night.Read more ›
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By Chul Hoon Kim on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Once you start reading, you cannot put this book down. This book is truly a way for people to visit Africa spiritually and experience another culture. Blacklaws' rich and detailed imagery takes readers on a journey of their own; this is probably why Chris Martin the singer of Coldplay said the book was so colourful. To truly enjoy the adventure u must read it with an open mind.
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By Nancy Senn on October 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is so elegantly written! A young boy from an urban setting must move to a very rural environment after his father accidentally kills the boy's twin brother. The insight into the coping mechanism of this child as he grows up is touching. The prose made me stop and reread parts just because the words so carefully selected and tied together.
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I have been reading fiction and nonfiction titles every February for BHM that feature racism in the U.S. This setting of South Africa captivated me because other than Nelson Mandela's autobiography, I hadn't read books in this setting, or with characters who spoke in the peculiar dialect of this story. But the racism was equally ugly as American racism, and the story contained equally heartbreaking scenes. A great story with fabulous literary style; the author is ingenious with using metaphor. A coming- of-age story I highly recommend.
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This book is simply written, yet the words drill into your emotions relentlessly. I am truly at awe and heartbroken for the characters in this book. I urge All south Africans with true heart and character to read this book and allow the emotions to flood through you. I am a normal 16 yr old guy and this book touched my soul. Read it.
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