Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

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Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A journalist with commitment phobia returns to South Africa for a Truth and Reconciliation Hearing. A superb, sparely written look at some big themes and a real pleasure to read. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: July 2007
Publisher: HarperPress
ISBN: 978-0007233854

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Nadine Morgan is a journalist. She's never in one place for long and she's always chasing the next big story. In Mexico she's badly beaten and left in a ditch after trying to follow up a story about twelve dead boys. When she becomes aware of her surroundings again she finds herself back in her father's home in New England, despite the fact that it's a decade since she last saw him. She's always run from anything or anyone that might tie her down and despite suffering from concussion, having a badly injured arm and a blossoming relationship with the local doctor this time is no exception. Discovering that the murderers of a young man from her home town are applying for amnesty under Nelson Mandela's Truth and Reconciliation Commission she defies medical advice and returns to South Africa, the country which launched her career and broke her heart.

Some books just grab you and won't let go. This is one of them. Nadine is a complex character. She lost her mother as a child and her father was a distant figure trying to make a living. She went to South Africa after graduating from journalism school and there she learnt her craft - and fell in love with a photographer. The book is a marvellous, non-judgemental portrait of the inequities of apartheid and the evil done by both black and white in the name of 'right' or 'freedom'.

On the plane to Cape Town Nadine encounters the parents of the murdered young man who are going to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. The mother is reluctant to speak to Nadine but the father hands her some excerpts from his son's diary. Intercut with Nadine's story are diary excerpts. Occasionally these seemed slightly contrived and an unnecessary interruption to the main narrative but I was pulled up short almost at the end of the book when I realised how Ward had carefully, almost maliciously lead me astray and allowed me to make false assumptions. I laughed out loud at being caught out so skilfully. I'm going to go back again and see where I missed the clues.

At 320 pages this looks like a short book but it packs a powerful punch, with some big themes - motherhood, forgiveness, the dilemmas faced by the professional woman - adroitly examined. There are some wonderful word pictures of South Africa and, at the other end of the scale, New England. The writing is spare, economical with never a word wasted. I was put in mind of Anita Shreve at her best or a new British writer, Eliza Graham. This is a book which will stay with me for a long time.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

You might also appreciate The Raw Man by George Makana Clark.

Booklists.jpg Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward is in the Top Ten Books About Africa.

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Buy Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward at


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