What a brilliant book about this raaiselkind (child of enigma). This Alexander (or Boetatjie, as the maid Miriam calls him) is the third child and first son of Dawid and Ingrid Dorfling, who live in a small town or village in South Africa. Dawid is the chef at the local Postoffice and Ingrid works at a local bankoffice. Both of them are very much part of the local community and the local church.
Their first two children are girls: Teresa and Zetta. Life is normal and accomplished. The third child is Alexander and the parents are filled with joy. But after the joy and the excitement things slowly change as they see the development (or the lack of development) of their son.
The book start nearly at the end, on a Friday. Ingrid is at the local buraaus of the police for she is suspected of having drowned her son. We trace her steps during that weekend that she is being interviewed (good cop and bad cop , mainly bad cop) on what happened on that fateful day. She has to reveal all on her life, her marriage with Dawid, her attitude towards her daughters, her attitude towards Alexander, her position in the local community, her relationship towards the church and its pastor. All needs to be revealed, according the policeman, in order to get a complete picture and to be convinced that Ingrid is the one who drowned young Alexander, in the bathtub at home.
These interviews serve as a frame work to recount her life, her hopes, her love, her marriage to Dawid (who commits suicide), her maid Miriam, her struggle to understand Alexander, her search to find a diagnosis for his extraordinary behaviour, till the boy is diagnosed with autism, her search for an education, for help, for a life.
We also follow the interviews of Miriam, the maid, who has a special relationship with the boy. She is able to get some contact with him and he is able to learn something with her help. In a way she is the one who has a clever understanding of what the police is aiming at and she wants to protect Ingrid.
We also meet Gunter, a farmer who stays outside the local community, who also has a special relationship with Alexander. The boy obeys him, and rides a horse at his farm.
The search for the truth continues. Did Ingrid murder her son, to end a very, very difficult situation?
I will not say a word about the end of this intriguing novel.
At times this novel reminded me of the great novel by Marlene van Niekerk ‘Agaat’, especially in the way Miriam relates to Alexander, as a token of the way people cross barriers and see one another and the possibilities of the others, a bridge across cultures and social barriers.
Annelie Botes- Raaiselkind – 2003