“Tsotsi” by Athol Fugard (South Africa)
One of Nicola’s 100 best books for inspiration in the 21st century!
Synopsis and Review
“Tsotsi”: a compelling story of redemption
Tsotsi is an angry young gang leader in the South African township of Sophiatown. A man without a past, he exists only to kill and steal. But one night, in a moonlit grove of bluegum trees, a woman he attempts to rape forces a shoebox into his arms. The box contains a baby, and his life is inexorably changed. He begins to remember his childhood, to rediscover himself and his capacity to love.
The fourth season of the Book Club got off to an exceptionally powerful start with this book choice. Members loved the book and were very moved by it. They found the use of imagery and the descriptions brought the story to life. Everyone agreed that the writing style and language played an important part in its rendition. Some members felt that they could tell the author was a playwright and that as a result the book didn’t quite have the dimensions of a novel. Readers loved the secondary characters and the different scenes: the attempted rape under the bluegum trees; the build up of tension as Tsotsi follows a cripple down dark sidestreets; Tsotsi remembering his childhood. There were mixed feelings about the ending, which some members found abrupt and brutal, but realistic. The book averaged 9 out of 10.
The theme this season is “From Book To Film”. Members had watched the film adaptation of “Tsotsi”, which was directed by Gavin Hood and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2006. There were major differences between the book and the film, namely the time and place: the book is set in the 1950s in Sophiatown and the film in the 2000s in Soweto. As a result, different issues have been touched on in the film (AIDS, new economic realities, etc.). Members felt that if they had not read the book, the film would have been enjoyable. However, after reading the book, they felt the film was very weak in comparison: the depth of the characters is not felt and neither is the build up of tension in many scenes. Other scenes have been completely changed to fit in with the new setting. Their advice: either watch the film first, then read the book – or better still, just read the book!
Nicola’s Book Club reading list
Season 4 – “From Book To Film” (Sep 2006 – Jan 2007)
“Tsotsi” by Athol Fugard (South Africa) *
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
“Oscar and Lucinda” by Peter Carey (Australia)
“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras (France)
“City of God” by Paulo Lins (Brazil)
* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur