A group of friends that haven't seen each other for twelve years get together on a luxury game farm in South Africa to try and save Jude, one of their clan. Most of the tribe are wealthy, with access to the kind of privilege most of us can only dream of. Theirs was a life of excess and hedonism, but in middle age, they are facing the same demons most of us do, albeit with fewer of the financial worries. Jude and Tselane, his wife, are the only two who are middle class and struggling financially.
In spite of having the kind of wealth I can only imagine, I found each of Xenopolous' deeply flawed characters to be beautifully drawn and recognisable. Olivia, a gorgeous aging IT girl, obsesses about losing her looks and wonders what value she will have in the world once she does. She tries to limit her five year old twin boys iPad time, while being addicted to screen herself. Tselane, the daughter of a struggle hero living in exile, searches for identity while refusing to acknowledge the land of her birth. Benjy, Olivia's emasculated investment banker husband, fears the day he is fired and will no longer be able to keep Olivia in the style she is accustomed to. While these concerns may seem far away from most of us, we all worry about our finances, have had our expectations of our bodies warped by the media and who in the modern world does not struggle with addiction, whether it be drugs, yoga or social media?
Through her characters, Xenopolous taps into the zeitgeist of the developed world, a wasteful society where the gaps between the rich and the poor are growing. She questions privilege, and asks what responsibility, if any, those with it have towards the less fortunate. She asks the reader to examine the things we value and consider whether the way we are living is the way we want to live. And she comes at it from all sides. All this, however, is wrapped up in an absorbing read about a group of fallible people whose love for each other has the power to both destroy and save them. It's a book you can kick back and relax with while having your mind tweaked. It reminded me of Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children. I read it too quickly, while trying to slow down because I didn't want it to end.