This book by the late South African writer has been washed up upon the shores of my plot and reached a place at my shelves, far away from the raging sea and the turbulence of identity.
Matthee relates the story of Moses Swart who was found as a very young boy at the bay when a ship sunk at the southernmost coast of South Africa. People took care of him and of all the things that arrived with the little boy, a little over a hundred years ago.
We meet Moses in his later years when he works at the estate of Lord and Lady De Saumarez. They belong to the upperclass of the British establishment, but they have decided to wash up upon the shores of South Africa after an eventful life, passing through two world wars. They look for peace and tranquility at the estate they bought and are renovating.
Moses was destined to be a shepherd, just like his adoptive father, but he does not have the connection with sheep and he is happy to get a job at the nearby estate of Lor4d and Lady. He becomes a kind of confidant of the Lord, he feels at home in the mighty house and in the expansive gardens.
One day two men come poking around in the area, trying to find out more about the shipwrecks and any survivors. Moses keeps shtum. Are these men the answer to his past? But at the same time he does not want to know the answer to his questions and his ancestry.
So in a way this book is about identity, but also about class relations and the way people from different backgrounds interact with oneanother.
The story continues in the present, but with many flashbacks to give more body to the past of Lord and Lady and their children. Quite a few times I thought about the development of the story that the content ( in a strict way) is good, but the way it is handled the book never reaches that level. At its best it reaches bronze.
Dalene Matthee – Die uitgespoeldes – 2005