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on Sep. 21, 2011 :
I really loved reading this exceptional book. Pierre van Rooyen conveys such a vivid picture of two children growing up in South Africa, and effortlessly weaves in all the sights, colours and sounds of the time. Humour, emotion, adventure, sensitivity, curiosity, and a delicious undercurrent of sinister apprehension keep the reader avidly turning the pages. All the characters are expertly drawn. Young Maudie is a delight with her instincts and insights, and her childish voice echoes clearly in the reader's mind. Her older brother Tadpole, the only one who really understands Maudie's gift, is protective of her while being every bit as mischievous. Maudie's fig tree, the source of her Saturdays Are Gold label, is an icon that sits square throughout the story. It would be all too easy to make comparisons between Van Rooyen's novel and classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn, but the truth is that this novel is like nothing I have read before. I can heartily recommend it.
(review of free book)
M. M. Fahren
on Sep. 20, 2011 :
I witnessed the emergence of Saturdays Are Gold while it was still on Authonomy as Little Girl in the Fig Tree. It is an exceedingly singular work of width and psychologically-charged drama. We are inside the mind of 'Tadpole' throughout and we know we are inside a very sacred corner of the author's own memory.
There are such poignantly specific moments in the South African setting, the action and the dialogue, which could only have been experienced first hand by a supersensitive young man.
The imagery of the South African terrain and the culture of post-Depression Kensington is vivid, engaging, meticulously rendered. Nothing in the story holds back the ultimate punch of the mysterious and malicious Giraffe Man's confrontation with his stalked victims. We encounter the anomaly of Muti-Medicine and the uncanny healers and seers of Zulu and African culture, the desolate dry rock coppies and caves just outside busy city streets, the roaming bottle and bag men, the racially construed prohibition laws and a commingling and division of race all witnessed through children's eyes (and their dog, Hobo).
We meet a piquant array of characters, each carrying a peculiarly lively wit, voice and perhaps, burden. The always-working but kindly father, Abe, who must raise his family without his beloved wife. His sister Babs, a lady pilot who was an Ace in WW but drinks to forget who she is in her society. Old Joseph, a marvelously woven figure of a beached sailor who can fight lions and survive alone in the Ocean after Patagonian storms capsize his vessel, to crumble on his return to a wife dying of cancer. . .Amos, the children's Zulu playmate who finds himself in very uncomfortable squeezes with his friends (hint: hissss!) . ..And of course Maudie, the girl with a third eye open only while she sleeps. . .who holds the key to a disturbing social phenomenon. And Tadpole, who must guard her from malicious forces he cannot see, and often his own pranks and play in a time of children a bit too free in a not so tamed outback.
This is an adventure, a mystery, a psychological thriller, and in the end, a vexing query into cultural aberrations we can neither completely explain, nor forget.
Although I found there was a multitude of detail, I also felt these came forth as memoir- facets to autobiographically enhanced fiction. No one who reads the story of a motherless girl with a sixth sense, her playmates and foibles, and her guardian brother, comes away without entering an event both enthralling and disturbing.
(review of free book)