Debut Novel Tells a Tale Taut with Layered Narratives That Intersect

Article excerpt

Karen Jennings

Holland Park

Finding Soutbek is a careful and close study on the role of personal histories in shaping our futures.

In this debut novel, author Karen Jennings shows how our histories are woven into our lives, relationships and dreams - and how holding on to them too tightly could trip us up.

Pieter Fortuin is the mayor of Soutbek, a fishing town on the West Coast. The poorer residents of the upper town work the ocean to earn a living.

The skill of fishing has been passed down from generation to generation - and with it, the hardships of poverty and the devastation of floods and fire upon the upper town's people and their homes.

Pieter was determined to be more than this - he committed to leaving behind the poverty of his past by creating a legacy of wealth to pass on to his son. When we meet him, he and a local white historian, Professor Pearson, have just written The History, which tells the unknown story of the founding of Soutbek - one which suggests that Dutch settlers and local inhabitants lived in harmony.

While the book launches to great praise and success, Pieter is dealing with the aftermath of recent fire - and then a rain storm - which has ravaged the upper town, displacing its people.

They have taken up residence in the rich lower town, much to the dismay of Pieter and the other residents.

And then there is Anna, Pieter's wife who keeps her distance and shrugs away from him, her silent disgust for him clear. …