OFF THE VOORTREKKER ROAD

OFF THE VOORTREKKER ROAD is a personal family story, a courtroom drama and a political narrative, casting light on a pivotal moment in South Africa's history. It weaves together two narratives. In Cape Town, in 1958, a young Jewish lawyer, Jack Neuberger, prepares to defend a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church who stands accused of ‘immoral or indecent acts’ with a ‘non-white’ woman. The novel also transports us back to Jack’s childhood, when he sat silently on a sack of beans in his father's hardware store, the Handyhouse, bearing witness to the comings and goings of the colourful community of Parow and navigating his way across the wash of his parents’ turbulent marriage.

The novel spans the twenty years in which the National Party or “Nats” came to power and the apartheid movement gathered momentum. For adult Jack, the secret police are watching his every move, key testimonies are proving unreliable and his career and family are threatened. For young Jack, as well as finding a way of coping with the discord within his family, he struggles with his sense of self: how to be a good son, a good Jew, a good person or mensch and, most importantly, how to be loyal to his best childhood friend, Terence Mostert.

Years later, in a courtroom in Cape Town, this loyalty and Jack’s personal courage face the ultimate test, in a case which will impact upon those he loves, those he feels responsible for and future generations of South Africans.



'I enjoyed and admired this novel very much. It is so well written, a fine example of how close and honest observation of a particular situation can speak volumes about larger issues.' 

Diana Athill

'A great historical fiction novel that deals with issues of race, humanity, and coming of age. I highly recommend this novel. It would also be a great book club book as there is much to discuss.'

Laura’s Reviews Blog, August 4th 2015

It is extraordinarily well written. The story is compelling throughout. I found it fascinating. Its characters all have depth, as do the issues they face. A real page turner, it has every ingredient that a good novel requires. Brilliant! 5*

Amazon review, 19th April 2017

Articles and blogs about Off the Voortrekker Road

Interview with Pam Johnson

https://wordsunlimited.typepad.com/words_unlimited/2014/09/barbara-bleiman.html


The South African

https://www.thesouthafrican.com/opinion/off-the-voortrekker-road-explores-barbara-bleimans-jewish-expat-past/

Hendon and Finchley Times

https://www.times-series.co.uk/leisure/books/11868111.novelist-barbara-bleiman-tells-her-fathers-fascinating-tale-of-growing-up-in-1930s-south-africa-in-her-debut-work-off-the-voortrekker-road-ahead-of-golders-green-event/


EXTRACT

1939

Pa’s hardware store stood in Parow, at the far end of Main Road,

the long thoroughfare stretching east to west across Cape Town that

eventually came to be renamed Voortrekker Road, after the rugged,

tough-minded Afrikaners who had settled the Cape. Parow, in those

days, was quite a distance from the city centre, out beyond Woodstock,

Maitland and Goodwood. Property was cheap and rentals easy to come

by, so Malays and Jews, Afrikaners and English had started to crowd in,

and the suburb was growing by the day.

On one side of the store was Irene’s, the women’s outfitters. It sold

corsets and brassieres, blouses, suits and bright cotton frocks, the most

glamorous of which appeared on two smiling, painted mannequins in

the window. On the other side stood Krapotkin’s butcher’s shop, its

large plate-glass window filled with pallid sausages, mounds of wormlike

minced beef and lean joints of lamb hanging from silver hooks.

A sticky yellow paper in the front of the shop was always black and

buzzing with flies. Krapotkin was a large, pink-faced man, with hands

as red and raw as the meat he handled and a voice loud enough to wake

the cockerel himself. He was in the shop, from early morning till late

at night, heaving dripping carcasses and slapping bloody joints of meat

onto wooden boards, slicing, chopping, grinding, sawing through flesh

and bone, all the while singing, laughing and swearing so loudly that my

mother said that Krapotkin and his butcher’s shop would be the death

of her.

 

©2020 by Barbara Bleiman

  • Twitter
  • Facebook