My thanks to Real Readers for a review copy
My 3*** Review
How far do you go to rescue your child?
Paul Van Neikerk is a successful white South African, contented with his status in life, and proud of his new BMW. When he is stopped at gunpoint and made to hand over the keys to his new car, it’s either comply, or be killed. Watching his new car speed away from him, Paul realises that his nine month old baby daughter is still in the car. What then follows is a tense and unbearably detailed account of how Paul’s life, and that of his wife, Claire, spirals into a nightmare of uncertainty and fear.
I thought that the early part of the story was quite gripping, the sense of terror and powerlessness is well thought out. The nightmare scenario of child abduction is played out with suspicion and unease. Paul’s character seems to go through a whole range of metamorphic changes from pacifist to violence, and it reiterates just how fragile the human spirit is, and how easily it is to descend into despair. Strangely, I felt less sympathy towards Claire, as she seemed to lack tenderness or any real warmth of character.
However, I enjoyed much better the latter third of the book which takes Paul into the heart of Soweto. The author’s familiarity with South Africa and its people is evident, and his ability to describe the changing political scene post apartheid is meaningful and thought provoking. My only real criticism is the use of interspersed Afrikaans phrases, which I felt were distracting rather than helpful to the text.
Overall, this was a complex and disturbing story, easy to read, but due to the subject matter, difficult to enjoy.
Held Up is Christopher Radmann's debut novel and was published by Headline Review on 19 July 2012