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Too Late The Phalarope Kindle Edition
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In "Too Late the Phalarope," published in 1953, five years after "Cry," Paton shows exactly how apartheid negatively affected whites, as well. Instead of murder the central crime in this novel is immorality. Yes, crime. It was on record, meaning against the law, for a white man to have sexual relations with a black South African.
The main character, Pieter van Vlaanderen, taller, stronger, smarter, and more successful than the average Afrikaaner, has a secret sin, a secret guilt: He is attracted to Stephanie, a black South Afrikaaner. What sets Pieter apart from others is his record as a war hero, an efficient lieutenant in the police force, and a celebrated rugby player from his region.
It is not a spoiler if I tell you that Pieter will be destroyed and the family ruined when Pieter is accused of immorality, then proven guilty. One way Paton avoids any description of this ill-gotten pleasure is to have an innocent narrator tell the story. Pieter's aunt, an unmarried woman, never loved by a man, is the narrator. Pieter's journal fills in details the aunt could not know.
Paton raises all sorts of ethical questions in his novel. Can a wife drive a man to another woman if she is unwilling to participate fully in the marriage bed? Does a man develop a weak character, although hidden, because his father is cruel and withholds love? The main question raised several times is this: If God fully forgives, if God gives grace, why then can't the state in crimes such as this? Not only is Pieter ruined, but so is his family, although grace does come into effect in this.
I found "Too Late the Phalarope" (a Phalarope is a bird and no, I cannot explain its meaning in the title), a richer novel than "Cry." It needs an immediate second reading to capture those nuances that run all through the novel that may elude the reader on first reading. And those ethical questions. This is the kind of book that would make an excellent choice for discussion in a book club.
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