South African novel The Keeper is almost a keeper

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Keeper is written by South African author Marguerite Poland. It tells the story of Hannes Harker, a lighthouse keeper who worked in the 1950s before automation takes over. Extremely efficient, Hannes is totally dedicated to his job and jumps at the chance to take up a remote posting on an island off the southern Cape coast.

Accompanied by his morose wife Aletta, the two arrive on an island inhabited largely by workers who collect and make compost from the abundance of available bird faeces. The place is also full of memories for Hannes. Hannes’s father was a lighthouse keeper and his mother, who lived with him, died mysteriously when Hannes was just a boy.

Deeply affected by the trauma of his childhood, Hannes is startled one day to find a special memento made by his mother. In his shock he stumbles and falls, badly injuring himself. He has to be taken to the mainland and spends a long time recuperating in hospital.

Much of the book is written from the viewpoint of Hannes relating his story to a wise, patient nurse, Sister Rika. As he tries to understand his past, Rika, in a sense, becomes his keeper.

The Keeper is a lonely, depressing story, something I didn’t enjoy. It is saved from complete morbidity, however, by the underlying theme of relationship. It is also beautifully and simply written, contains deep meanings that require some reflection to be appreciated, and is a welcome South African novel.

Photo supplied by Penguin.

Photo supplied by Penguin.

Hairstyles show deeper meaning in American Hustle

A review by Brenda Daniels

American Hustle has been nominated for Best Picture and various other awards for the upcoming Oscar ceremony on 3 March, so I went along to the South African preview to see what all the fuss was about.

The film, set in New Jersey in the 1970s, tells the story of con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two meet and become lovers and then, posing as a Briton with “banking connections”, Sydney helps Irving take his underhand dealings to a new level. Caught out by FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they are lured into an even bigger world of crime in an effort to catch dirty politicians and the mafia red-handed.

Cooper brought a certain manic amusement to his role as an agent determined to make it big and I enjoyed this. The hoodwinked politician, Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, had a certain endearing vulnerability to him, and Irving, convincingly played by Bale, had a soft side to him, exhibiting patience with his dumb wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and affection for his young son.

The film opens with Irving working on an elaborate “comb-over” hairdo, and most of the characters sported hairstyles that required some work. This aspect seemed to mirror the characters’ fake lifestyles, and highlighted their weak efforts at, now and then, wanting to “be real” with each other.

Apart from these mildly redeeming qualities the characters and action in American Hustle are relentlessly seedy.

It was hard, and in fact quite boring, to enjoy a two-hour film that gave no interesting message, showed no characters I could identify with enough to care about, and provided no relief from the dirt. Whilst I don’t like the 70s era with its iconic clothing, music, coiffeurs and American mobsters, there are viewers who do. They’ll get plenty in this film.

American Hustle opens at Ster Kinekor in South Africa on 28 February. It carries an age restriction of 16LS.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)