Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

ninevehKatya is a humane pest controller in South Africa. She learnt her craft from her father. They have a difficult relationship and are currently estranged but when she is asked to perform a difficult assignment on a luxury development, Nineveh, she senses his influence at play.

The thread that runs through Nineveh is the search for ‘home’. Katya’s unstable father kept his family constantly on the move and she has struggled to settle. Her sister escaped his influence early and has immersed herself in suburban family life. The developer of Nineveh strives to create perfection, insulated from the poverty that surrounds his development.

The plot is slightly jagged and unresolved, but that’s okay in what is an offbeat story. My difficulty with this book is the sheer amount of description. The author writes beautifully, giving a fresh perspective on everyday experiences. But just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Not all the time.

When Katya visits a high-powered client at his office we accompany her through the lobby, up in the lift, along the corridor…We find out how it feels to have a bath and to walk to the mall. We’re never teleported from one place to another but always have to plod there in real time, like the unedited footage from a headcam.

Despite these reservations, this book does stay with you. The pest metaphor is a powerful one. Who decides who gets to live within the walls, and who must be kept out, distanced, even destroyed? How does the outsider, despite everything, find a niche and survive?

Nineveh is definitely worth a read, but you might want to skim a bit.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

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