The landscape of 1970s South Africa lives and breathes in these highly evocative stories, populated by unforgettable characters defined in their own ways by a repressive political system: a middle-class white girl observes a servant from her hideout in the garden; a woman sees the sea for the first time and takes it home in a bottle; a sheltered, small-town white woman drives out for the first time on her own; a young man goes away in the dark of night to become a freedom fighter; post-apartheid, an artist finds inspiration in the earth...
"Dawn Promislow has the gift of entering into the consciousness of her characters to reveal extraordinary moments of clarity that illuminate not just themselves but the world in which they are living—that of apartheid South Africa. She takes us to that time and place not through the large political gate, but through the back door of the servants' quarters or the internal gates people erect to protect their psyches. The artfulness and seeming simplicity of these stories, their quiet and understated tone, make the overtones even more chilling. These are voices that will continue to haunt us with their beauty of spirit for a long, long time. Wonderful reading from an astonishingly fresh and original writer."
OLIVE SENIOR, author of Arrival of the Snake-Woman
"When words are plain, but vivid; when characters seem nondescript, but are extraordinary; when plots are straightforward, but keep you guessing what will happen next; you are reading masterful writing such as these short stories by Dawn Promislow. The austere precision of each hurtful, passionate epiphany will make you think of Ernest Hemingway, as if he had been born South African. But no comparison is necessary. Promislow’s talent compels us to welcome an exceptional author, one who writes of Africa and Africans with unflinching, but loving, insight."
GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE
“At their best, the stories have a compression of description and a simplicity of narrative arc that can indeed be jewel-like in lucidity...The deadlocked society of apartheid is strikingly rendered.”
JIM BARTLEY, The Globe and Mail
"In this first collection of short stories, Dawn Promislow provides a timely retrospective on the apartheid years. Stepping aside from the manichean terrain of apartheid writing and the currently fashionable post-apartheid narrative of reconciliation, Jewels and Other Stories explores the moments of epiphany embedded in the minutiae of the everyday in those years of racial oppression in South Africa. The different stories, the parallel perceptions and surprising revelations that each event, encounter or relationship generates, resonates with a calibrated nuance just beneath the dominant narrative voice of each story. A tapestry of secrets, of the untold, unresolved, personal stories, of those times unfolds in these narratives.
Promislow has cultivated a distinctive style of her own that is simultaneously introspective and focused on the objects and events of everyday life. The clipped, abbreviated prose of these stories, their simple, uncluttered syntax, possesses a lyrical power reminiscent of the best of Albert Camus and the accomplished prose stylists of modern fiction. Jewels and Other Stories is Promislow's labour of love for the land of her birth."
HARRY GARUBA, University of Cape Town
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"[Promislow's] stories weave a delicate thread of observation which reveal the ugly chasm created by apartheid and at the same time offer an unusually penetrating insight into otherwise disregarded lives."
MITHU BANERJI, Wasafiri Literary Magazine
"Promislow's stories are subtly wrought, and her language is plain but polished... [There is] a depth and resonance that belies the slimness of this volume."
STEVEN BEATTIE, Quill & Quire
"While her first collection of short stories is set in a country that many of us have never visited and during an era of represssion to which most of us cannot relate, it speaks to universal themes, as all worthwhile and compelling stories do."
CYNTHIA RAMSAY, Jewish Independent
"...with rich imagery and lush description, Jewels and Other Stories is a wonderful collection of fourteen character studies from a thankfully bygone era."
JOSEPH SERGE, Canadian Jewish News
Other reviews of the book, and interviews about the book:
Wasafiri (this review is behind a paywall)
Authors aloud: a reading and commentary