The Spiral House

The Spiral House Katrijn van der Caab freed slave and wigmaker s apprentice travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services The year is

  • Title: The Spiral House
  • Author: Claire Robertson
  • ISBN: 9781415203842
  • Page: 306
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification It is also here that Trijn falls in love.Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification It is also here that Trijn falls in love.Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer an Englishman and suspected Communist who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.In Claire Robertson s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free.About the author Claire Robertson lives in Simon s Town She has spent the past 30 years as a journalist, reporting from South Africa, the US and USSR She has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and television, and now works as a senior copy editor on the Sunday Times She has won awards for her reporting and her work is carried in several anthologies.

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    2 thoughts on “The Spiral House

    1. Librarian Note There is than one author in the database with this name.Claire Robertson is the author of The Spiral House, winner of the 2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize and a South African Literary Award, and The Magistrate of Gower She lives in Simon s Town.

    2. (First: Full disclosure. Claire Robertson works at the Sunday Times where I was, until recently, editor.)But, in another life, she is a brilliant writer and this is her debut novel. The first thing that strikes you about this book is the author's absolute command of the language. She knows it well enough to play with it, even reinvent it. This playfulness with the language allows her to control the book's two intertwined narratives which occur centuries apart with a deftness that allows the read [...]

    3. I read this in hardcover, a signed first edition on loan from a friend. What struck me was not having access to the Kindle’s built-in dictionary and annotation functions. Not to mention translate, if you are non-South African (meaning cannot understand Afrikaans), and are attempting to read this.It staggers me that there is no glossary for international readers. I suppose it is quite an irony, an example of the high-handed colonialist attitude that Claire Robertson dissects in The Spiral House [...]

    4. Readers of The Spiral House might at first battle to get used to the archaic language and some of the expressions, but once you have settled in, prepare yoursel for a story about the very foundations upon which skin colour was based. Intermingled with the status of the whites versus that of the coloured people you will be drawn into the heartaches and joys they suffer through the course of the story. Claire Robertson's research is sound and forms the backbone of the various threads which culmina [...]

    5. A delicate, clever, clever complex and beautifully wrought read. At first I didn't quite know what I was reading and wrestling with it to reach an understanding was not just rewarding but somewhat transporting: having read The Spiral House I'm in a different place. There's many layered magic here. Well done Claire and thank you.

    6. Historical. A novel that takes hold slowly, and then tightens its grip. Stories, and glimpses of stories, lives shaped or misshapen by the monstrous cruelties of South Africa’s past – slavery and ignorance in the 1700s, and in 1961 brutality becoming the norm as a section of the population believes its racism legitimized by the advent of the Republic.

    7. I cringe when I think it took me a month to finish reading this one. The archaic language, although astonishingly beautiful, makes this book quite the challenging read. Please don't be discouraged to read it. It is a very satisfying story once you allow the words to take you. After reading some of the reviews on this book I have come to the conclusion that one either loves this book in its entirety or hate it as such.I think the dislike towards the book stems from impatience with the writing.We [...]

    8. I really struggled to get into this book because of the archaic language. The characters and story unfolds very slowly and there is a complexity that I found really challenging. However, there was quite an ethereal quality to the story telling that eventually becomes quite compelling. The 2 main characters are cleverly paralleled and the 'truths' that are revealed are difficult to confront. The main story line is 'to expose that which binds us and sets us free' (quoted from the dust cover!) and [...]

    9. I almost gave up on this one and started skim-reading to the end but then one or two sections drew my attention and I went back and read it properly. There are two stories set around 200 years apart with a number of clear links and parallel themes (one of the more obvious is that the two narrators were both named [Ka]Trijn/Catherine). These links only become clear towards the end of the book though, and at first I kept wondering what the connection might be. But each story ultimately explores th [...]

    10. The Spiral House tells two stories. The first: The year is 1794 and Katrijn van de Caab, a freed slave, travels with her wigmaker employer/friend from Cape Town to the remote Vogelzang. It is here, on the beautiful, verdant farm, where Katrijn (or Trijn, then) makes friends and enemies, falls in love, and in truth comes to learn who she is.The second story takes place 200 years later, and tells the tale of Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital in the northern reaches of South Africa–a [...]

    11. I wanted to like this book which exposes parts of white South Africa's past in alternating chapters. The back and forth between Katrijn's life, a slave in 1794, and Vergilius, a white nun living in 1961, made it a very disruptive read. I felt that it could have easily been written as two books instead. The lack of a narrative line did not help either. Most reviewers say read it twice, and sure I would read it a second time for the wonderful descriptive language but I fail to understand why the s [...]

    12. I came really close to abandoning this one, and I almost never abandon books. I just couldn't get into either of the two stories woven into this book. I kept waiting for something really big to happen or to at least figure out how the stories connect. There were so many characters that I had trouble keeping track of everyone and there was a lot of unfamiliar language and terms that made it hard to just settle into the story. I feel like perhaps there is something deeper going on here that just w [...]

    13. Three of my regular book reviewers returned this novel. They all struggled to read it. I decided to try it to see what the problem was. The Spiral House is almost impossible to get into. It is full of long-winded descriptions and characters who are far too introspective. This is sad because the story is an interesting one.

    14. - There was an impulse that ran through me in those days, a question, a quest, that coloured how I saw myself and other people, other women and girls in particular, and it was this: how to be. -- He was the instrument of her mother's devisings and his a mother's dilemma: by disguising her child's flaw she made known that she saw there was a flaw to be hid. -

    15. Took a long time to get into this book, but so pleased I did. One of the most beautifully crafted stories I've read in a long time. Yet another great South African talent. Also a reminder that I haven't been reading enough fiction lately. Claire Robertson - keep writing.

    16. I really enjoyed the beautiful language here (and I'm fortunate to have an Afrikaans translator close at hand!) but I never fully 'got' the connection between the linked narratives, nor did I think there was quite enough narrative urgency.

    17. Brilliant. So moving and economically narrated. Even among the most appalling circumstances and injustices there are those who are blessed with the spirit to fight and take action. Really worth getting to know the characters and sharing their lives for a short while.

    18. Incredible! I totally lived this book while I was reading it. Descriptive writing was breathtaking. It's the kind of book that you wished you had written yourself.

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