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Book Review | The Scent of Oranges by Jane Zawatzky

January 9, 2009

scentoforangesjpgThe Scent of Oranges
Jane Zawatzky
Garev Publishing International, October ’08
375 pages
Fiction
Book 2/09
Challenges: ARC/New author

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From Amazon:
Linda returns to the family orange farm in South Africa to attend her father’s funeral. She is drawn back to her past, to the striking beauty of her homeland and the people who still live and work there, but her country is vastly different. A democratic government has emerged from the shame of apartheid, yet it’s a violent land where extreme poverty, AIDS and TB exist alongside western affluence and where beliefs in ancestral spirits and voodoo still linger below the surface.

Her father’s last wish was for Linda to investigate the murder of her youngest brother and the guilt of those accused. Ghosts of the past guide her search as she seeks the dangerous truths behind each new lead. As the lies unravel, her family will be dishonored, a shameful past will be revealed and yet there is great hope for reconciliation and the future.

 Amazon rating: 4 reviews/4.5 stars
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Me: This book moves along between a snail and turtle’s pace while our lead character investigates the murder of her brother that happened during her childhood. There is lots of family turmoil at the heart of this story. They have plenty of secrets and dark episodes that color their actions. This is not an easy family to like and at times you will despise their behavior. The issues are many and deep not only within the family but within a troubled and conflicted country.

The investigation of her brother’s murder meanders along and she easily solves it in the time she spends at home after attending her father’s funeral. We’re lead to the believe that due to racial tensions and strife the police basically made the investigation disappear and convicted those who had little or no hope of defending themselves. While I have no trouble with premise of making a case ‘disappear’ I did have issues with the relative ease that clues fall into place twenty years later and the simplistic resolution.

I also had some trouble reconciling the fact that her murdered brother looked so vastly different from the rest of the family. For his appearance he suffered throughout his childhood at the hands of his family and others. He becomes a rebellious trouble maker and blackmailer leaving a trail of hatred. For all this there is mere mention of a single relative far removed who could have played a part in the looks of this young man. I realize that genes skip generations and can reappear, in some form, down the line somewhere but his physical appearance as laid out by the author was a little bit of a stretch for me.

The most interesting parts came through as the author subtly wove in the underlying cultural differences and racial tensions between the blacks and whites. The terror of leaving your home fearing for your safety. The relations between boss and farm workers, childhood friends and future generations. The returning of lands taken. While not an ‘in your face’ look at the politics they never the less color this story and make an interesting background.

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5 Comments
  1. January 10, 2009 3:45 am

    Hmm…snail’s pace is really not my thing right now. But I do find books set in Africa fascinating.

  2. January 10, 2009 6:40 am

    That one’s not for me – I don’t like books that move that slowly.

  3. January 10, 2009 10:07 am

    Ladies – Appears I’m odd man out again as the reviewers at Amazon love it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  4. January 10, 2009 10:48 am

    Well I’ve got this one on my nightstand coming up next so I hope I’ll be one of those that loves it. We’ll see.
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    Maybe I’m getting more finicky. Books that others love I finding myself falling on the other side of the fence lately. I think it probably says more about me than it does the book. This year has started off kind of rocky. I’ve yet to find a book that really grabs my attention. Maybe I’m on reading overload.

  5. January 10, 2009 1:53 pm

    I’ve hummed and hawed about reading this one, but right now an overly slow paced book would be a bad choice for me. Maybe someday, when I’m more relaxed in my reading.

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