Bookanista share an excerpt from Henrietta Rose-Innes’s Nineveh – out now in the UK and US
 More about the book!

Henrietta Rose-Innes’ Nineveh, first published by Umuzi in 2011, was released late last year in the United States (Unnamed Press) and United Kingdom (Aardvark Bureau).

Bookanista has shared an excerpt, read on:

Caterpillars? Easy, thinks Katya. Even these, thick-clustered, obscuring a tree from bole to crown and shivering their orange hairs. Caterpillars she can deal with.

Still, it’s a strange sight, this writhing tree: a tree in mortification. Particularly here, where the perfect lawn slopes down to the grand white house below, between clipped flowerbeds flecked with pink and blue.

Off to the side, just in the corner of her vision, a gardener is trimming the edge of the lawn, his eyes on Katya and the boy and not on his scissoring blades. Rising behind the scene is the Constantiaberg. It’s an autumn day, cool but bright. The mountains look their age, wrinkled and worn and shouted down by the boisterous sky. It’s a lovely afternoon for a garden party.

But at the centre of the picture is an abomination. This single tree sleeved with a rind of invertebrate matter, with plump, spiked bodies the colour of burnt sugar. It’s possible to imagine that the whole tree has been eaten away, replaced by a crude facsimile made of caterpillar flesh.

“Toby. Gloves,” Katya says, snapping her fingers and holding them out stiffly.

Her nephew rolls his eyes – particularly effective, with those large pale orbs, green with the whites visible clean around the irises – but leans down from his superior height to press a crumpled ball of latex into her palm.

The gloves are important. Katya is not at all squeamish about cold-blooded, squishy things, but some caterpillars have irritant spines. Thick gardening gloves are too unwieldy for this fine work, and Katya also prefers the feel of the latex: it deadens, but in tamping down the background stimuli, it also seems to isolate specific sensations. The gravelly landscape of bark, the warmth of skin without its friction. The gloves are part of the uniform, along with the steel-toed boots and lurid overalls. Her signature colour: poison-toad green, boomslang green. While they are working, the uniform separates her and Toby from the pastel colours of lawn and flowers. They are all business.

To keep reading, click on the link above.

Categories Fiction International South Africa

Tags Bookanista Henrietta Rose-Innes Nineveh Penguin Random House SA Umuzi

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