Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

My Mother’s Lovers

by Christopher Hope

“A brilliant send-up of the ‘white tribe’ in Africa, featuring a larger-than-life Beryl Markham-like figure . . . and the son who can’t flee from her shadow fast enough.” —Vanity Fair

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date August 12, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4373-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $15.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date August 21, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-1850-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $24.00

About The Book

Once it seemed to Kathleen Healey that Africa was empty and all of it belonged to her. An aviator, big game hunter, and knitting devotee, she would land her plane wherever and whenever she chose. She was free with her favors, too, and her multitude of lovers came from all over the world.

In this moving and lyrical novel, Booker finalist and Whitbread winner Christopher Hope has crafted a female character as electrifying, and as alarming, as Africa itself. Kathleen Healey is passionate, comic, and cruel by turns, and strides across the continent from Cape to Cairo in seven-league boots. When she dies, her only son, Alexander, returns to Johannesburg to carry out her final wishes. Her legacy, which he must deliver in person, includes a cache of firearms for a former apartheid enforcer, a wig that once belonged to a Liberian boy soldier, and her knitting needles, which he must present to Bamadodi, the Rain Queen. What he inherits is her house and her gardener who, like Alexander, is also an exile. But when he meets Cindy September and she moves into his home, Alexander must confront the final part of his mother’s legacy—his capacity for love.

Bitingly funny, outrageously inventive, and peopled with a fantastical cast of characters, My Mother’s Lovers shows how the hunger to be loved and to belong affects us all.

Tags Literary

Praise

“A brilliant send-up of the ‘white tribe’ in Africa, featuring a larger-than-life Beryl Markham-like figure . . . and the son who can’t flee from her shadow fast enough.” —Vanity Fair

My Mother’s Lovers is a reply to all the romanticism that has stalled our continent’s literature, a sort of refreshing antidote to the disease of nostalgia that kept the incongruity of the African experience off the shelves. Kick off your shoes, pour yourself a stiff drink and take your hat off to the elder statesman of southern African words—he’s done it again.” —Alexandra Fuller

“Another scathingly funny look at the bizarre social and psychological landscape of his native South Africa from Whitbread winner and Booker short-listee Hope. . . . [The author] paints a broad canvas teeming with vigorous characters; his political commentary is fresh, biting and deeply cynical. The moving final pages show Alex still in thrall to the magic of Africa and his mother, decry their lies and failures though he may. Intelligent, tough-minded and surprisingly tender: a portrait of Africa that both convinces and provokes.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Set primarily in South Africa from the late 1800s to the present, this engrossing novel features an eclectic cast of characters. At its center is Kathleen Healey, a pipe-smoking aviator, hunter, knitter, and all-’round adventurer who leaves lovers in her wake. Kathleen travels the continent of Africa, going wherever and whenever she chooses, and she has unlimited tales to share of her incredible experiences. While tracing the Healey family history, the novel also explores the history of South Africa, especially its conquests and civil wars. Significantly, in a land where race is of prime importance, Kathleen is color blind. When Kathleen dies, her only son, Alexander, returns to Johannesburg after an absence of many years. As he reconciles conflicted feelings toward his mother and his mother country, Alexander renews old relationships, makes new friends, and grapples with love, belonging, identity, and race. Hope, whose numerous novels include Kruger’s Alp, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction, offers vivid and powerful descriptions of modern-day Africa. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.” —Library Journal

“Hope allows Kathleen to come through clearly, and individual episodes are suffused with Alexander’s lifelong ambivalence. His portraits are skillful.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“A superbly-sustained tour-de-force of the writer’s art, a book in which humour, imagination, political observation and biting criticism are combined to glorious effect”. A triumph.” —Robert Colbeck, Yorkshire Post (UK)

“Hope brilliantly captures the contradictions and dilemmas of being African, and being in Africa, a place that defies definition.” —Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“Hope is a consummate storyteller of sweeping compassion, who knows his Africa.” —Michelene Wandor, The Sunday Times

“Hope’s dry sense of humour lightens some dark themes, and his larger-than-life characters offer refreshing attitudes to and perspectives on difficult subject matter. This critically acclaimed author’s latest novel is deserving of a wide audience.” —Sue Parnell, Waterstones Books Quarterly

“A deceptive kind of masterpiece. Wonderful on the matter of human belonging and tribal instinct, terrific on the whole subject of the European penetration of Africa, but most impressive on the South Africa of our times.” —Jan Morris

“Grave and tender, savage and subtle . . . Hope sends the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the European encounter with 20th-century sub-saharan Africa. . . . Remarkable.” —Giles Foden, Guardian

“A darkly brilliant flash of light across the horrors of South African society.” —Good Book Guide UK

“Defying categorisation, this is a discomfiting but highly distinctive story, a combination of brutality and gloss.” —Daily Mail (UK)

My Mother’s Lovers is many things—a novel about growing up; a sequence of bluff, angry meditations on South African history; a search for love—but, best of all, it is a portrait of an extraordinary woman. . . . One of the things that makes this book such a powerful performance is the way in which Hope manages to blend a sense of people with a sense of place, and the private with the public. Alex expresses his feelings as someone who knows South Africa intimately, but who never took to hunting; he is as adrift in the landscape as he is from his mother’s love. . . . Hope is terrific at summoning up the characters and colours of the times before his narrator was born, and some of the best storytelling in the book comes straight from the mouth of his mother” There’s plenty of comedy here, and it’s all wryly put into perspective; but the tension of this excellent, freewheeling novel comes from the way Alex responds to history and his mother. For almost all of the book, they’re both nightmares from which he is trying to awake.” —Tom Payne, Daily Telegraph

“Ferocious . . . a savage dissection and, perversely, a riotous celebration of the murderous banality of daily life in South Africa. . . . Kathleen is a brilliantly drawn if cartoonish character . . . Hope’s coup is to make Kathleen at once a maverick character in her own right, and a symbol for the continent itself. . . . If Kathleen takes centre stage, Johannesburg, as backdrop, nearly steals the scene. Hope captures its vulgarity, its brashness and its violence. . . . Christopher Hope has set himself the monumental task not only of writing a novel about South Africa that sweeps from the age of Empire through high apartheid to the new era of Mandela’s ‘rainbow nation’—and beyond, to the present-day reality of Mbeki’s Aids-denying government—but also of debunking the romantic myths that have fuelled the colonial impulse of the African continent. . . . My Mother’s Lovers succeeds hilariously as caustic invective.” —Elizabeth Lowry, Times Literary Supplement

“A superbly sustained tour-de-force of the writer’s art, a book in which humour, imagination, political observation and biting criticism are combined to glorious effect . . . [Kathleen] adventures result in a book crammed with irresistible images. . . . As Alexander’s story unfolds Hope’s prose frequently reaches haunting heights of beauty. But his critical eye is never still. The tragedies of Africa are seldom far from his thoughts, and the continent’s posturing ‘blasted leaders,’ seemingly trying to outdo each other with the oppressiveness of their regimes, are duly ridiculed and reviled. In short, My Mother’s Lovers is a triumph.” —Robert Colbeck, Yorkshire Post

“This novel is another accomplished work, biting, outrageously inventive and peopled with memorable characters.” —Paul Hopkins, Irish Independent

“Funny and poignant. . . What really makes My Mother’s Lovers such a cracking read is Alexander’s voice: his cynicism, anger, and vulnerability, his confused identity and firm grasp of colonial history.” —The Glascow Herald

“Hope forces his readers to acknowledge some unpalatable truths. Defying categorisation, this is a discomfiting and highly distinctive story, a combination of brutality and gloss.” —Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

“This novel is exceptionally funny and deeply, satirically, critical about the Rainbow nation. . . . an addictive read.” —Brian Martin, Sunday Telegraph

“Hope is a consummate storyteller of sweeping compassion, who knows his Africa.” —Michelene Wandor, Sunday Times

“A brilliant send-up of the ‘white tribe’ in Africa, featuring a larger-than-life Beryl Markham-like figure . . . and the son who can’t flee her shadow fast enough.” —Anderson Tepper, Vanity Fair

Awards

Seattle Times Favorite Books of 2007