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The smell of apples
Mark Behr
Adult Fiction BEHR

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From Publishers' Weekly:

``The dreams of the parents become the dreams of the children,'' observes Marnus Erasmus, the 10-year-old son of an affluent white South African family of the early 1970s. The irony behind his remark lies at the heart of this moving and tragic first novel, whose innocent narrator provides the perfect lens through which to view a culture in decay and self-denial. A boy who enjoys fishing and playing with his grade-school friends, Marnus lives in a beautiful house with his mother, a former musician, and his father, the youngest-ever major-general in the South African Defence Force. But doubts, many mirroring the unpleasant realities of South Africa itself, begin to burrow at the foundation of this seemingly idyllic life. The young son of the family's servant is severely burned by white men; Marnus's beloved aunt is exiled from the family for espousing ``liberal'' views, while his sister, Ilse, threatens to follow in her footsteps; a visit from a Chilean general inadvertently reveals to Marnus the moral rot within his own parents' marriage. Perfectly controlled and powerfully realistic, this novel is underwritten in the most positive sense: Behr creates a situation so potent that the characters seem to indict themselves. And yet the reader retains sympathy for Marnus, a boy just beginning to understand the horror around him and, in italicized passages seeded throughout the narrative, a man facing death 15 years later on the battlefields of Angola. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Set in South Africa during the 1970s, this alarming debut novel relates the story of an Afrikaner family through the eyes of the narrator, Marnus Erasmus. Marnus is a product of the Afrikaner culture and apartheid system. Against a background of commonly accepted racial prejudice, he lives a seemingly happy life, governed by his father, who is a general in the South African military. As the novel develops, Marnus witnesses the slow disintegration of his family, including the sexual molestation of his best friend by his father and an affair between his mother and a visiting general. The story is rich with striking metaphors that present the oppression and hypocrisy of the system, and the author displays the narrative style and insight of a skilled storyteller. The subtle development of Marnus's family exposes the ruthless reality of South Africa under apartheid. A book that promises to create strong reactions; recommended for most collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/95.]‘David A. Beronä, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Marnus Erasmus
Age: 11

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