The Cardinals--thought to be the first long piece of fiction Head produced and the only one she ever set in South Africa--is an exciting literary event.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyAlthough South African writer Head (When Rain Clouds Gather) may have been ahead of her time in the 1960s, when she wrote the title novella and the accompanying seven short pieces set in South Africa, they have not aged well. Now they read more like scattershot historical information mixed with outdated ideas, and as a consequence, the introduction, about the political background to Head's writing, is far more interesting than the work itself. The central piece is the drab story of an equally drab woman who was sold by her mother for five shillings. Her one piece of luck is early on to become acquainted with an elderly man who teaches her to read and write. She lives in uneventful destitution until one day, while working in a hair salon, she dashes off an angry letter to African Beat-The Paper of the People, and the editor answers by offering her a job. She toils in the office with two obnoxious men-one of whom has designs on her even though she is so bland that they nickname her ``Mouse.'' Although there are some interesting bits here about life in South Africa, dialogue is wooden and political detail takes a backseat to a dull genre plot that ends with redemption through romantic love. The remaining very short stories, if often unfocused, are more energetic. During a rain shower in ``Earth and Everything,'' the narrator ruminates on love; ``Africa'' is a paean to that continent and its contradictions; and ``My Home'' describes what makes a place peaceful. The final story, ``Earth Love,'' which describes a man 's homecoming, has more substance, but it too is so brief, it has barely any impact. (Feb.)
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