6 December 2013. Johannesburg.
Gin has returned home from New York to throw a party for her mother's eightieth birthday; a few blocks away, at the Residence, Nelson Mandela's family prepares to announce Tata Mandela's death...
So begins Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose's searing second novel. Responsive to Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, the story follows a polyphonic course across a single day, culminating in a party and traces the fractures and connections of the city.
An irascible mother, a daughter trying to negotiate her birthplace and the people from her past, a homeless hunchback who takes his fight for justice to the doors of a mining company, a mining magnate, a man still haunted by his first love, the domestic workers who serve this cast and populate the neighbourhood, a troubled novelist called Virginia - these are the characters who give voice to the city on a day hot with nerves and tension and history.
Johannesburg is a profound hymn to an extraordinary city, and a devastating personal and political manifesto on love.
REVIEWS of JOHANNESBURG
Fiona Melrose pays obvious tribute to Virginia Woolf's classic. But she is an inimitable novelist in her own right. (Matthew Adams The Spectator)
Following the interlinked lives of a handful of Johannesburg residents, this is an ambitious, beautifully written novel that seems to sing. (Sarra Manning, Red magazine)
To say Fiona Melrose's new book Johannesburg is ambitious is an understatement. But she pulls off a stream-of-consciousness success, following a single day in the South African capital through the eyes of everyone from an expat artist to a homeless hunchback. Kudos. (Stella magazine, the Sunday Telegraph)
The pages fly by. Clearly written from the heart, in it we can find much of our own lives, regardless of the setting. Melrose paints the city beautifully, full of grace, colour and even fear. (Belfast Telegraph)
Delicate yet devastating . . . Melrose beautifully captures the simmering, shimmering city and the vivid characters that walk its tense streets. (Psychologies magazine)
Melrose portrays [the city] beautifully, full of grace, colour and even fear. (Independent i)
Melrose can undoubtedly write . . . what emerges is her original depiction of modern Johannesburg - a beautiful, violent, unforgiving place that is a social reality and a state of mind. (Daily Mail)
Beautifully observed . . . Together, these varied voices bear witness to the experience of living in a complicated city. (Mail on Sunday)