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The Boy Next Door: A Novel Hardcover – September 8, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Irene Sabatini's remarkable debut novel about Zimbabwe is a kaleidoscopic blend of elements encompassing everything from coming of age and first love to race, nationalism and the rapid degradation of a once-thriving country. The story is at once sprawling and intimate, political and personal.... [Sabatini] is able to convey the evolution of Lindiwe and Ian's complex relationship with brilliant nuance and depth. Her portrayal of their different but ultimately connected views on race, family and country is masterful. Like Lindiwe, Sabatini grew up in Bulawayo and was educated in Harare. Like many first novels, this story has an autobiographical feel, but one that adds authenticity and immediacy to the narrative. Sabatini's descriptions of Zimbabwe--its people, its languages, its politics, its beauty and its despair--are absolutely stunning and not to be missed."―Debra Ginsberg, Shelf Awareness
"Sabatini, who grew up in Harare and Bulawayo, offers a beautifully written first novel that explores the complexities of post-independent Zimbabwe--ever-shifting affinities of race, family, and other affiliations--through the love story of a mixed-race couple."―Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
Lindiwe and Ian are the protagonists, neighbouring teenagers who inhabit very different worlds, she a black Zimbabwean, he a 'Rhodie' with the attitudes of a ruling elite. A terrible event brings them to each other's attention, and through the years of post white-minority rule their relationship develops from immature curiosity to - well you'll just have to read it to find out exactly what. Suffice to say each has a profound effect on the other, as their paths cross while their country goes through increasingly troubled times.
This is described as a love story in promotion and it's certainly that. However I felt it was so much more and that simple description didn't really cover the complexity of the situation. It's love, but love in a world undergoing wider turmoil as the Mugabe government, widely approved as a model of African democracy, descends into a regime of paranoia and fear. The political situation touches the worlds of these characters but it's not central and at its heart this is certainly a novel about people and not politics.
It's to the author's great credit that she breathes life into her characters, with even comparatively minor figures fully rounded and believable. Lindiwe's family are convincingly drawn, with subtlety and at times surprising detail.Read more ›
I received this book from Hachette Book Group; I'll start there. It sat on my bookcase for a while before I was ready to pick it up; it was intimidating and large and serious looking and I knew I needed to be ready for it. I started it, and fifty pages in I stopped and restarted it, and I'm glad I did. Restarting it allowed me to settle in with the narrative voice, it let me be fully familiar with Lindiwe and the way she uses memories to fill in the past so I can understand what makes the present so profound. The Boy Next Door is epic. It spans decades. It follows Lindiwe from adolescence through her transformation into a woman. She is fourteen when the novel starts, and her seventeen year old neighbor has been arrested for lighting his stepmother on fire. That's how the novel starts. But that's not where it stays. It follows Lindiwe and her neighbor, Ian, through post-independant Zimbabwe, through race tensions, and revolutionary riots, and love ,and loss, and danger.
Part 1 begins in the 1980's. Lindiwe is a young girl, shy, surrounded by racism and a country in transformation. Ian seems worldly to her, having been released from prison and returned to Bulawayo. They form an unlikely friendship, secret from the world. They are pulled together by an inexplicable bond that lasts through war and riots and years apart.
Part 2, the early 90's, finds Lindiwe grown into a young woman, attending school, with a future. Her childhood crush develops into something mature and deep. But there is always an overhanging sense of unease in Sabatini's writing; as though we know this happiness between Ian and Lindiwe cannot possibly last and be peaceful for the next 200 pages.Read more ›
I've read things using this sort of voice before - childlike, short sentences, bland, simple - but never enjoyed them as more than novelty. A child's/adolescent's voice doesn't have to be like this, and I've celebrated alternatives in things like Banks' impressive Feersum Endjinn. Indeed there's lots of decent teen fiction that catches it out there (e.g. Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones). I relished the way Gene Wolfe utilised an innocent's perspective in the glorious Knight. But here this style just killed me. Even more than Kate Grenville and Carrie Tiffany, who can be similarly detached and emotionless, but at least offer some range of sentence length, and greater depth of description. Here's a (seriously) random excerpt:
Mpiri says that the young master is sleeping in the boys kaya with him. Mphiri scratches his head and says that this is not right. The young master sleeps right on the floor without even a mattress. He sleeps on a grass mat. Maphosa says that maybe now Mpiri will see reason and go back home. Even white people are afraid of Amadhlozi, the spirits who want to avenge a grave wrongdoing. Rosanna does not believe Mphiri. A white person would never do that. She cannot even imagine them using the same toilet as Mpiri. Mapiri is just getting too old. White people need electricity....
And so it goes - on and on and on. You could imagine it as a massive telegram, with someone saying `STOP' at every full stop - which occurs about every ten words or so.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thanks for letting me relive some wonderful years I had in Bulawayo. Though I was there years before this story takes place. A very sad chapter in this wonderful country's history.Published 9 months ago by Mike Liebst
While there are few novels of Africa that make it in the U.S. market - Although the story was interesting, I was not impressed with Ms. Sabatini as a writer. Read morePublished 11 months ago by psr
The problem with this book is the readers need to understand the complex political groups but if you do have that knowledge you can enjoy a rather pretty love story with all the... Read morePublished on December 30, 2013 by Annbon
The jargon in this book threw me off. It wasn't one of the best written books and then having difficulty understanding the wording made it less than enjoyable for me.Published on October 15, 2013 by Claudia L. Einertson
I won't sure what to expect when I started the book, and the seemingly segmented approach to carving the story was distracting at first. Read morePublished on June 21, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This is a beautifully told story about two people who become inseparable because of the turmoil around them. Read morePublished on January 23, 2013 by lady g
This was very emotional book that touched you to the core. Set in Africa Zimbabwe during the current war and glimpses of previous wars (conflicts). Read morePublished on January 14, 2013 by LMILAB
It was an amazing story. Having lived in the country before it became Zimbabwe, I was familiar with names of streets in the two major cities of Harare (Salisbury) and Bulawayo. Read morePublished on November 27, 2012 by Margo Rees
I picked up this book looking for a novel about Zimbabwe, but it turned out to be a "modern relationships" type book--a story about how relationships are difficult and complicated,... Read morePublished on May 7, 2012 by E. Smiley