“A darkly delicious and compelling work…” – Barbara Manning, Daily Dispatch
“In one scene in Kitchen Casualties, Isabel finds her tongue tied ‘into a knot’ as she struggles to translate the Afrikaans word bredie, as it appears in a poem by Therese Bartman.
‘I continue my search,’she says,’turning words over like stones, looking for scorpions or treasures underneath.’
I am left with a similar feeling after reading Kitchen Casualties. I cannot begin to tell of the treasures that lie in store for the reader, nor can I describe the sting that waits in the tail of the scorpion.” – MAIRE FISHER, Cape Times
“As previously mentioned, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2010 is to read at least 5 South African books this year. Here’s a review of the first…
Kitchen Casualties by Willemien de Villiers is a beautifully written story, set in two regions of the Western Cape (False Bay and McGregor). While parts of the past are remembered and re-told by all 4 main characters (4 generations of women in one family) - the tale itself takes place in one day. The family are preparing for a farewell dinner for Morgan, the youngest of the four women, who is about to leave for Scotland.
Each of the older 3 women carry parts of a dark family secret within them –the victim, the denier and the silent witness. As the day progresses with the characters busy – taking a solo walk on a beach, shopping, baking and trawling through the debris of a life almost over – the reader slowly unravels the story, often not sure what is real and what is imagined. Ultimately, the secret is exposed and a sort of resolution occurs.
What makes this book memorable is the style of de Villiers’ meticulously crafted prose – it is organic; a blend of weaving and cooking, building and collecting, weeding and discovering. Themes used in the telling of the story include botany, entomology, dry walling, translation, poetry, photography and of course food.
I enjoyed the setting (Red Hill, Muizenberg etc are all near my own home), the use of the kitchen and food as a central theme, the very different characters and how the reader can view life through all four pairs of eyes. But the beauty of the words and sentences is what made this book special for me.
I’ll be adding de Villiers’ latest book, The Virgin in the Treehouse, to my ‘to read’ list.” – The Portfolio Travel Blog
“Although the book is intensely visceral, and often describes memories and thoughts by means of the senses, there is a dreamy symbolism to it, a not-quite-real edge that melds with the wild ocean terrain and the sometimes-unreliable story telling of the female protagonists.
There is a heightened reality at play here, and the gaps in the narrative and echoes of Afrikaans serve to push the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.
This is a book for those who like their fiction challenging and unique.” – Bridget McNulty