THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: AN APARTHEID LOVE STORY (THE SUB-SAHARAN SAGA BOOK 1)

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REVIEWER: TRACI SANDERS

RATING: GOLD BOOKWORM

I like to challenge myself from time to time by choosing genres outside of my comfort zone. Historical fiction is probably one of the toughest for me to read because of the statistics and complex story lines found within; but the cover and title of this book pulled me in and I just had to try it.

I was mesmerized from the beginning of this story. The author paints a vivid, controversial scene right away. His character descriptions are thorough and make you feel as if the players are on a stage right in front of you – every single character! The love story has a Shakespearean feel to it that makes your heart ache for the couple, as with Romeo and Juliet. And each love scene is written beautifully.

The pace is steady until about halfway through, where it starts rolling and doesn’t stop until the very end. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a compelling, thought-provoking read.

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GUEST REVIEWER: ANITA KOVACEVIC

RATING: GOLD BOOKWORM

Reality+romance = relevance

This book came highly recommended and I put off reading it till I knew I had stopped having expectations. Preconceived expectations are never a good thing. The apartheid topic is one I don’t gravitate towards, because it still shocks me too much that people could and can be narrow-minded enough to judge others by skin colour, instead of character. I just get too emotional and enfuriated.

This story is two-fold. One is the social romance fiction based on historical events, and the other is the author’s account of the historical account, which is not fiction but interpreting and explaining the past. You may appreciate this or not, but the author forewarns you that it is your choice and how to watch out for it. The historical background account is certainly useful for those unacquainted with the socio-political situation, although the rest of my review will refer to the fictional part and author’s style. It is absolutely impossible to look at the storyline by taking it outside its historical context, but it is equally impossible to review politics here.

The characters, plot, emotions, descriptions are all reminiscent of the great movies from the golden ages of Hollywood, and you can easily picture someone like Grace Kelly playing Elsa, or Sidney Poitier playing Stanwell. Though at times I did wish there was more conversation between Elsa and Stanwell themselves, the scene with the beaded ‘love letter’ makes up for all the words. The implications of tradition in contrast with their rule-breaking speaks in abundance. However, despite this romantic duo, my favourite character is DGF — sort of love at first read, for so many reasons.

Malan Zander, on the other hand, made me want ot leave the book as soon as he appeared, not for bad writing, but for hitting too close to home – the puny souls, abusing power every chance they get, are all too painfully realistic, regardless of time and culture. An entire tapestry of characters is well-displayed as you follow the battle of interracial romance with the world paralysed with bigotry and inhumane politics.

The wording is really rich, intricately written, with quite a few local expressions adding to the overall atmosphere and understanding of the two worlds melded into one. The style is consistent throughout, the syntax quite complex and vocabulary exuberant, and the topic absolutely noteworthy. The fact that the author actually lived in such surroundings and times exudes additional credibility. The contrast between the descriptions of Stanwell’s cursed mines and the media frenzy surrounding Formula 1 and fashion is excellently written, and leaves a striking impression on the reader, enhancing the depiction of injustice and inequality. As the story progresses and nears its ending, the analogies with the wilderness become stronger and serve the story impeccably.

The author does not limit himself only to displaying the brutality of racism, but other forms of tragic prejudice – mysoginist, antisemitic, bullying the weak, misguided and misdirected tiny lords with legal power. What a grand race humans could be, if we weren’t so puny sometimes! Nevertheless, Mark Fine shows very clearly there are no clear lines between the good and the bad, and it is not money, status or skin colour which makes us good or bad, but our nature. Family, loyalty, friendship, respect and love go beyond any limits and matter the most.

The Zebra Affaire is an old-fashioned, romantic but not deluded, vintage-like tale which is not to be rushed in and cannot be rushed. If you are looking for fast-paced, cliffhanger thrillers with wild erotic scenes, you might not find everything you are looking for in this book. If you are looking for a book that makes you think, and engages your sense of humanity, culture, history and language, this is one of the great ones you will enjoy. The writing here reminded me of music – this might not be something you dance to, but something you listen to carefully and in peace. There is much to be learned from such art.

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REVIEWER: ELIZABETH HORTON-NEWTON

RATING: GOLD BOOKWORM

It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.

As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.

With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa. In spite of some subtle foreshadowing of events to come the inevitable conclusion still comes as a shocking surprise.

I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Fine says

    The fact that several of you took the time to read my romance of the no-no kind historical novel, “The Zebra Affaire” is rewarding enough. To receive you Gold Bookworm accolade is an added bonus. I am both honored and delighted. Thank you, RRR (Readers Review Room). Wishing you all golden zebra stripes ////////

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