Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose
The debut novel Midwinter by Fiona Melrose was so well received it was longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for 2017 and was one of my books for 2016. It’s voice still to this day resonates with as it was so beautifully written. Fiona Melrose returns with her second novel Johannesburg and the cover alone (Neil Gower) is just breath-taking.
The premise for Johannesburg is that it is set just over one day, and that day being 6th December 2013 the story follows Gin Brandt who grew up in South Africa and became an artist and moved to New York. But this is a time for celebration as it is her mother’s 80th birthday and Gin returns home to the place of her birth to be with her family.
But also there is great sadness, the world will at the same time hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. The world is about to mourn the loss of this great man. There is so much within this book to absorb and not just the storyline. The characters that make up this astonishing novel really make the story come alive. Whether it is the mother and daughter coming together and trying to understand the past as well as the present to the housekeeper and domestic servant a past love and there is also a homeless man who was badly injured while protesting on worker’s rights. It is all here. With each character they each in turn bring something to the story which brings it to life.
The more you read through this novel the more your mind may start to play a little trick with you. Many will have read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf. In Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose has paid the ultimate tribute to Mrs Dalloway. This is true homage to a classic story and Melrose throws her heart and soul into her second novel. Ambitious? Yes, without any doubt. The next question is does she pull it off? In my view this is an extraordinary novel that at times is just runs with emotion just like the city itself on that very day when hearts and minds all met a day of history. Fiona Melrose tells it straight as she tells us of a troubled and divided city, with all its inequalities and prejudices and the violence that haunts this city. There is so much to take in through the pages of Johannesburg and I am not giving any clues as to how the story proceeds. This is a book that will linger with you for some time after you have finishes reading. I am delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND Johannesburg and a book for your Summer reading.
Thank you to Helen Upton for the advanced review copy of Johannesburg
Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose was published by Corsair on 3rd August and is available through through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.