Frank McAllister has long since dropped "Retief" as his middle name, but the legacy of his family's history proves harder to shake. His ancestor Piet Retief, leader of the South African Great Trek, was killed by Zulu king Dingane in the 1838 massacre, along with a hundred men, women, and children. Afrikaner legend paints Retief as a homegrown Moses, bringing his people to the Promised Land. But Frank believes something rotten lies at the core of this family myth.
Frank spends his days in his London home with his new partner and her son and the products of his wealth. But the return of his daughter, Lucinda, from rehab in California brings him intense guilt: having sided with him during his divorce from her mother, she crumbled under the weight of the bitter separation. Lucinda has brought home with her a mysterious boy, and they will join the family trip to Frank's beach house in South Africa--not far from the site of the 1838 massacre. In the lulls of their idyllic days, Frank unravels what really happened on that fateful day, and how it may connect to the violence of the apartheid years, and the violence encroaching on them even now.
Up Against the Night is an enthralling tale of personal conflict and intrigue, set against the backdrop of South Africa's tangled past and troubled present, and told with tremendous color and insight. Absolutely original and gripping, it is destined to be as influential as JM Coetzee's Disgrace.
Cartwright (Lion Heart) writes a tale of one South African man that combines beauty, joy, and foreboding. Frank McAllister is a scion of the Retief family, whose most famous member, Piet, led a group of Boer settlers to their deaths at the hands of the Zulu king, Dingane, in 1838. Frank left South Africa behind to become a very successful businessman in London. Now he is making his annual return visit to his seaside vacation home on the Cape with his new love, Nellie Erikson; his daughter, Lucinda; and Nellie's son, Bertil. Frank is trying to keep away from his cousin, Jaco Retief, a drunken failure of a man with a violent temper. While Frank is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and his loving family, the reader also follows Jaco's ominous progress across the country as he purchases a gun and moves inexorably toward his cousin. Frank himself describes the land "as a kind of tapestry, intimately woven of beautiful landscapes and violent death." His love of Shakespeare contrasts sharply with Jaco's low vulgarity, but both lend this work an air of impending tragedy.