The Silvermans represent the cream of the South African Jewish crop. Most importantly, they are rich and attractive. The family is frum, which means practicing, devout, orthodox. Alan Silverman is not only a successful businessman, but he also helped further the Anti-Apartheid movement. He is a pillar of the community. So why did his wife, Brenda, die suddenly? Most would call it an accident, or suicide, but the formal inquest into her death reveals so much more. Reporter Tracy Jacobs will discover the truth behind the Silvermans’ shiny façade.
In a fascinating series of first-person accounts, the Silvermans and the people in their lives reveal the sordid tale of abuse and betrayal that preceded Brenda’s death. In a culture where “it could never happen” and “we don’t do that sort of thing”, the insidious evil thrives in secret.
This book highlights in chilling detail a “culture of silence”. Because of the rules of the close culture and limited community, abusers justify their abuse, victims keep silent for fear of their abuser and shame in their community, and onlookers argue away the signals of trouble.
Also, the story brings to life a time of racism, revolution, and the point of view of a group within that society that both accepts and reviles them. Racism, anti-Semitism, and abuse of power helps and harms the Jewish community in South Africa from the small towns to the big city.
The book is by no means a dark tale, though. Dreams and ideals drive the characters, unaware of the secrets that lie behind the players. I enjoyed the peek into local culture, complete with Yiddish and South African slang. Although I never quite figured out some of it.
Marilyn DeVillers has revealed a tantalizing and disturbing narrative on the insidious and subtle nature of abuse. The reader feels Alan Silverman’s point of view, only to discover the jaded nature of his actions and the lies he tells himself and others. Brenda’s reactions to the events that lead to her death reveal the self-blame and shame that guide her action and inaction. Tracy’s point of view sheds light on the outsider’s perspective on appearances that give way to shocking truth. All these and more weave through the book to surprise, engross, and emphasize the deep and spreading sickness that eats away at a culture, even during a time of liberation and equality.
Four stars because of some editing errors and homophone confusion. Also the writing was a little passive in some areas.