Talented writing, plot wanting

This is my review of The Impostor by Damon Galgut.

In the interests of positive discrimination, Adam loses his job to the young black intern he has trained. I was looking forward to a South African writer's take on the reality of the curdled idealism of life in the post-apartheid system. Certainly, there are telling observations of a corrupt policeman, a beautiful young black woman now able to make her fortune as a white man's wife, older black servants whose lives situations remain remarkably unchanged, and a thug in fear of reprisals from former colleagues he has sold out in his confession to a truth and reconciliation committee. Yet, the book turns out to be more of a psychological drama involving Adam's dealings with a former pupil at his school who seems to have become an unlikely successful entrepreneur.

I admire the clear, uncluttered prose which provides vivid impressions of the South African landscape, some convincing dialogues which reveal, say, Adam's uneasy relationship with his brother, and an insight into Adam's complex state of mind as he goes through a mid-life crisis. I also like the way in which most of the main characters are to some degree "impostors".

However, I agree with the reviewer who finds Galgut's writing somehow "bloodless", promising more than it delivers. In this case, I just did not believe in Adam's ill-judged friendship with Canning, his acceptance of the old nickname "Nappy", nor in Canning's enigmatic wife, nor his magical estate of Gondwana. There were some tense and moving moments, but the ending left me underwhelmed. There are all the ingredients here for a good novel, but the whole ends up less than the sum of the parts.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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