Edyth Bulbring’s The Choice Between Us (Tafelberg, 2019) is a clever little book. (You may remember it as one of my top YA picks for winter.)
The novel explores the lives of two young women – one in 1963 and the other in present-day Johannesburg.
Margaret grew up during the height of Apartheid, a time when families were being terrorised by the secret police and people were brutalised daily.
Jenna, on the other hand, is a member of Generation Z in the new South Africa, but not everything is perfect in the Rainbow Nation. While she is looking for clues about her family in her Aunt’s home, Jenna discovers a letter that contains the word “murderer”. Slowly an old family secret is revealed as well as the full extent of the horrors her family experienced in the past.
“Choice” is a central theme, specifically the choices we make and how the repercussions can span generations. It’s skillfully done.
The novel also juxtaposes modern politics against the brutal laws of the past, giving the reader a clear picture of how drastically South Africa has changed, and what challenges still remain.
I think South African readers will really resonate with this story. It’s a beautifully written, really touching exploration of what it means to live in South Africa and what we have gone through as a nation. With any luck, it will become prescribed reading in schools.
I really have to take my hat off to Edyth. I know her mostly as a humorist. Her earlier works and most recently, her Snitch series, are so funny and lighthearted. Then she cracked her knuckles and released the dystopian post-apocalyptic novel The Mark. Now she’s showing off her serious side, and raised the bar super high.
This book is a fine addition to the high calibre of South African young adult fiction titles available. Local readers are a really lucky bunch.
See more of my LEGO stories here.