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Nineveh Paperback – November 15, 2016
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Rose-Innes’s descriptions of Nineveh and of the looming presence of infesting insects squirming just beneath the surface are nonetheless both beautifully written and resolutely Ballardian in tone. ―Geoff Manaugh, author of A Burglar's Guide to the City
"White South African writer Rose-Innes makes her American debut with a nimble, intriguing novel about a second-generation Cape Town exterminatorer, ethical pest-removal specialist... A persuasive, witty exploration of a tough and unconventional young womanand a consistently lively account of the entanglements of cultural politics, class, and architecture in contemporary South Africa." Kirkus Reviews
"South African writer Rose-Innes creates a thoughtful, textured narrative... Surreal in style and atmosphere, yet grounded in the reality of place and the ever-present threat of insects, this is a quiet but deep look at the ecosystems we create for ourselves as well as those we can't escape." —Publishers Weekly
"Henrietta Rose-Innes writes an admirably taut, clean prose a welcome addition to the new South African literature.” J.M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace
A gripping, thrilling allegory of a troubled nation, Nineveh is executed with wit, panache, precision and something that I can only call wounded love for the country the author calls her home.” Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others
Rose-Innes is a pleasure to read inventive, intelligent and entertaining. In Nineveh, she has created a densely layered, totally absorbing tragicomedy for our anxious time and place.” Ivan Vladislavic, author of Double Negative
I love Henrietta Rose-Innes’ work. With plotlines that are wittily subversive and language that is whippet-lean, it is long overdue for discovery by a wider readership.” Patrick Gale, author of A Place Called Winter
"The multidimensional novel recalls Italo Calvino's beautiful, challenging and descriptive novel, Invisible Cities ... Such delicacy is evident in Nineveh." Sunday Independent
"Visitors to Cape Town wanting a memento of the city to take home will do well to put this accomplished tragicomedy in their suitcases. Nineveh is beautiful, eccentric and thoroughly readable." FMR Book Choice
"Relentless and perfect." Mail & Guardian
"What a delightful novel Rose-Innes has worked out of her offbeat material ... even the caterpillars and metallic longhorn beetles that creep through the text shine with iridescent toughness and gleam with humour." Cape Times
In Rose-Innes’ latest novel, the gently wry, elegantly written Nineveh, the completion of a contemporary luxury housing development in the area outside of Cape Town is impeded by the confusing excesses of its location, geography and environment. It’s not just (beautiful) beetles that swarm through Nineveh; subterranean, buried and otherwise unknown forces do, too, challenging far more than the control methods of Katya Grubbs’ humane Painless Pest Relocations’ business but also those of her sense of home and history, and of what our place might be in a transforming world.” Africa in Words
A strange and apocalyptic tale about a swarm of insects which overruns a luxury housing development outside Cape Town, causing mayhem and destruction. A pest remover named Katya Grubs is called in but finds she has much more on her hands than just the bugs.” Africa is a Country
About the Author
In 2012 her story Sanctuary” came second in the BBC International Short Story Prize. In 2008 she won the Caine Prize for African Writing, for which she was shortlisted in 2007. Also in 2007, she was awarded the South African PEN award for her short story, Poison.”
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Katya Grubbs (quite a good name for someone in the pest business) is not an exterminator, as she values the lives of the creepers and crawlers she is called to erase from this earth, but a relocator, taking them where they will thrive and live happily ever after, without bothering any humans.
Her father was also in the business, but a traditional exterminator and quite a nasty human being.
When Katya is hired by a local (and very rich) businessman to eradicate the pests in an estate he constructed (the Nineveh of the title), she is faced with a huge problem. The whole place is uninhabitable due to some very strange bugs. To her surprise, her father was involved before her in this, which is not good news.
Good plot, good characters, a very good book from a new to me author.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The thread that runs through Nineveh is the search for ‘home’. Katya’s unstable father kept his family constantly on the move and she has struggled to settle. Her sister escaped his influence early and has immersed herself in suburban family life. The developer of Nineveh strives to create perfection, insulated from the poverty that surrounds his development.
The plot is slightly jagged and unresolved, but that’s okay in what is an offbeat story. My difficulty with this book is the sheer amount of description. The author writes beautifully, giving a fresh perspective on everyday experiences. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Not all the time.
When Katya visits a high-powered client at his office we accompany her through the lobby, up in the lift, along the corridor…We find out how it feels to have a bath and to walk to the mall. We’re never teleported from one place to another but always have to plod there in real time, like the unedited footage from a headcam.
Despite these reservations, this book does stay with you. The pest metaphor is a powerful one. Who decides who gets to live within the walls, and who must be kept out, distanced, even destroyed? How does the outsider, despite everything, find a niche and survive?
Nineveh is definitely worth a read, but you might want to skim a bit.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
Katya Grubbs is an exterminator - more a "relocator", actually, as she's a fundamental believer in every vermin's right to life. Her empathy with the unloved provides an ongoing theme for the book, as Katya connects more with bugs than her fellow humans.
When a swarm of mysterious beetles infests an idyllic suburb, Katya is hired to do her thing. Her investigation brings her in contact with pests of all shapes and sizes - including the suburb's sleazy developer and, most troubling of all, her wayward father.
Part Gothic and part mystery, Nineveh is all amazing. Nineveh is a tale about a hidden world and the people (and critters) that live in it, seemingly beneath our notice except when everything goes oh-so-painfully wrong. This is all topped off by a genuinely surprising ending that, although it shocked me, couldn't have been more perfect.