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Yvonne Vera: The Stone Virgins

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0374528942

Book: yvonne vera, the stone virgins
In The Stone Virgins Yvonne Vera tells the usual sort of love story -- girl meets boy, love, partings and the ultimate triumph of love over adversity. But do not make the mistake of expecting a tale that in any way at all resembles the usual. I read one of Vera's earlier novels some time ago -- too many years back for me to remember many of the details, but I do recall the experience as comparable to that of listening to an operatic aria.

The Stone Virgins, too, reads almost as a sustained prose poem. First-time readers far less impatient than I might read it slowly enough to savor the poetry of the piece. I skimmed it as speedily as I could, greedy to follow the plot line. And now I have before me the delightful prospect of rereading the novel and enjoying the telling of it -- definitely the kind of book that one revisits over and over again.

Verbal images of Bulawayo and the surrounding areas of post-independence, 1980s Zimbabwe adorn the whole of Vera's novel. As you turn the pages, you will feel your senses seduced into the myriad sensations that are unique to her African homeland. She paints her scenes with both fine and bold strokes of her narrative brush. Her readers feel the scents of the flowers, see the colors of war, smell the pain of cruelty.

I looked forward to reading a lot more of Yvonne Vera's writing, but tragically she died in April this year at the far too young age of forty -- and before she could complete her sixth novel. So if her writing enchants your literary senses as much as it does mine, you too must make do with an exploration of the not-big-enough body of work she left behind.

Moira Richards

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