Book review: The Fifth Mrs Brink

The Fifth Mrs Brink is the memoir of writer and academic Karina Szczurek, the fifth wife of author Andre P Brink.

The book describes their romance and happy marriage, but it also offers a portrait of the woman behind the title. Karina writes that to know her, you must visit the places close to her heart, and in this book she shares some of the moments that have defined her.

When she was young, Karina’s family fled Poland. They lived in many places, never quite being able to plant their roots. She writes about leaving her family to study in Wales, her passion for South African literature, and  her first visit to the country to interview Nadine Gordimer. She also writes beautifully about the sea, which has been a constant in her life.

It was her passion for South Africa that ultimately led to Karina meeting Andre Brink, who was attending a conference in Austria. She was sent by the university to meet him at the airport. Their touching goodbye at a wintery Christmas Market will give you goose bumps.

During her and Andre’s courtship, the couple visited the important places from Karina’s past, including Paris, England and Wales, where as a student she stayed in a little room by the sea.

We stopped for tea at Abaty Tyndyrn and read Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798’ aloud to each other in the middle of the ruins.

That’s a scene from a movie right there.

I don’t want to share too much of the content, because this book needs to be read and experienced as a whole. What I will say is this. At the first Cape Town launch, interviewer Mervyn Sloman recalls how Andre and Karina often visited the Book Lounge (they spent every moment of their marriage together) and how he was struck by Andre’s almost impish delight and sense of humour. This was the effect Karina’s unconditional love had on the man.

It was, without any doubt, the truest kind of love.

The Fifth Mrs Brink is a tender, personal memoir. It’s brave and honest and so, so, so beautiful. Open your heart to this book and prepare to be moved.


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