Ruby Red by Linzi Glass

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Ruby Red by Linzi Glass

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A beautifully written story of young love amidst the turmoil of apartheid South Africa during the 1970s as it led up to the massacres of schoolchildren in Soweto in 1976. Agonising, lyrical and intensely romantic, it blends politics and young love to stunning effect. Don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0141382807

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Ruby lives in 1970s Johannesburg. Her father is a liberal lawyer, representing black people accused under the apartheid system. Her mother owns an art gallery that showcases talent from the townships to an international audience. Like Linda Gavon of the Goodman Gallery, Ruby's mother believes that art is the blood of a nation.

In Ruby's house, there are no black servants. There are black guests; artists free to pursue their muses free of restriction. But they are secret guests, forbidden by law. So Ruby can never have friends to her home. It's too much of a risk. A straight A student and prefect, Ruby presents a face to her peers that is nothing like her true self. It's the only thing she can do. And it makes life complicated. And when she falls head over heels in love with Johann, an Afrikaans boy who feels as she does about apartheid, but whose father belongs to the racist group Die Broederbond, life becomes even more complicated and even more dangerous.

Many strands are blended together in this slim little volume. Ruby Red is a story of sweet and tender first love, a story of apartheid and its ruthless cruelty, a story about the power of art, a story about family dynamics and the nature of friendship. How to grow up? How to relate to others? Is a cause more important than a child? When do you give love? Is it possible to withhold it? In whom can you trust? These strands segue effortlessly into a narrative told with tight economy but a wealth of atmosphere, feeling and beauty. It's the kind of book that makes your chest tighten as you read.

I sat and wept for Ruby. She is fighting the good fight despite the pain and dislocation it causes. Ruby's life is full of separations - from her peers, from her friends, from her parents, from the boy she grows to love. And these separations, obviously, mirror the ugliest separation of all - that of apartheid. Ruby Red has pain and heartache against a backdrop of terrible and gruesome events, but despite this it is a beautiful, lyrical book, both haunting and romantic. I can't think of a better way to explain apartheid - or any other system that ghettoises and separates - to today's young people. It's an outstanding book and one they'll read over and over again. Don't miss it.

My thanks to the good people at Penguin for sending the book.

David Almond's The Fire-Eaters is another intense book set against a backdrop of current events, this time the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lucas by Kevin Brooks talks about young love that is not accepted by peers.

Booklists.jpg Ruby Red by Linzi Glass is in the Top Ten Love Stories For Teenagers.
Buy Ruby Red by Linzi Glass at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ruby Red by Linzi Glass at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Ruby Red by Linzi Glass at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ruby Red by Linzi Glass at Amazon.com.


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Neelam Shah said:

I thought the book reivew on Ruby Red was really detailed and descriptive on the events that happened in the book and it showed how the reader grasped the story line as it must have been a gripping novel with many turn of events in it. I like the way the reviewer has emphasized with the themes that were shown in the book as she picked out certain ones like tender love, apartheid, power and family dynamics and used them to ask rhetorical questions to people who have read the book. The review was really interesting to read and it showed that the reviewer Jill Murphy can adpat to this character Ruby on the way she is feeling. So after reading the book i would agree of what she has said and commented on. I would rate it 5/5. I also would recommend it to any teenagers to read Ruby red as it is an fantastic book

Comments by Neelam Shah age 15.

Shirleyanne Seel said:

Well, I am not a teenager, I am 70, and I was set the task of reading this book by some teenagers who go to North Walsham High School, Norfolk. The High School meets with the North Walsham Library book group twice a year and we discuss books.

I found the book riveting and it reminded of much which is forgotten about South African history. However there are still people who dont want to understand about the rights of other people and this book highlights some of the problems encountered by those who want to integrate and relate to each other as ordinary people who can be friends.

Linzi Glass's writing grips one from the opening words to the end of the story. It is difficult to imagine living in Johannesburg at the time of Soweto and yet reading in the newspapers about the riots now as Zambians cross the border into South Africa, some of the terror of how humans can treat other humans is still apparent.

Ruby and her parents are the sort of people many of us would like to be, tolerant and supportive. It is challenge to many of us even today and Linza Glass is to be congratulated on her excellent writing and ability to make people stop and think.

Jill replied:

Oh, how wonderful you found the book via teenagers. And I'm glad you enjoyed it - you're right; it's important.