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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country by Gillian Slovo

Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country
A passionate witness to the colossal upheaval that has transformed her native South Africa, Gillian Slovo has written a memoir that is far more than a story of her own life. For she is the daughter of Joe Slovo and Ruth First, South Africa's pioneering anti-apartheid white activists, a daughter who always had to come second to political commitment. Whilst recalling the extraordinary events which surrounded her family's persecution and exile, and reconstructing the truth of her parents' relationship and her own turbulent childhood, Gillian Slovo has also created an astonishing portrait of a courageous mother and a father of integrity and stoicism.
Summary & Cover taken from
Length: 282 pages (Hardcover)
Available Formats: Print/E-book
Publication Date: February 1st 1998 by Little, Brown Book Group   
As many of you know I'm really interested in the history of South Africa, particularly about the figures who played an essential role to bringing about the downfall of the apartheid regime. So when I did another one of my numerous library searches I came across this book and knowing very little except the basics about Ruth First and Joe Slovo I decided to give it a shot.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting this book to be really since I knew nothing about Gillian Slovo (apart from her parentage) and I've never read any of her other books before but what I got was not what I was hoping for.
I never go into a non-fiction read especially a biography or a memoir thinking that it will be a fast paced read like a novel and while this is sometimes the case in this instance the book crawled like a turtle. It took forever for me to get into the writing style and even as I finished the book I still hadn't warmed up to it.
While I understand that the lives of those in the spotlight are neer what they appear to be and that what goes on behind closed doors is often nothing like we would imagine I was surprised that the author chose to refer to her parents by her first name. Perhaps this is because she was trying to distance herself from them in order to focus on them as people rather than mom and dad but it bothered me. The book was written with such a coldness it was as if she'd rather not be connect to them at all.
However given her tumultuous upbringing I can understand if there are old wounds that never healed but I suppose if you're going to discuss your family that it would be prudent to add some snippets of your family life like some warmer moments just to offset the cold clinical attitude that the author adopted. Another thing I disliked was that she skipped back and forth from from different points in time. Often I would find her referring to events in the 1950's and she would skip ahead to the 1980's and back again. There was no fluidity to the writing at all.
The one saving grace of the Every Secret Thing was that I learned an amazing amount about the real Ruth First and the real Joe Slovo. While the way their life stories were told didn't sit well with me I did get an intimate look into the history of this political powerhouse of a couple.
Overall, I wasn't too impressed with Every Secret Thing but I do respect Gillian Slovo for penning this book. It is no easy thing to delve into your parent's pasts and uncover long hidden secrets (like a long lost brother) and she should be commended for her efforts. I just wish that it was put forward in a better way. I would recommend this to people who enjoy biographies and those with an interest in reading about two people who helped change the world.
It Was Okay!
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1 comment:

  1. Very well written review. Too bad the book had a slow pace. But im glad you found it educational at least


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