Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

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 Between her and the walls of Nineveh, the mud is alive. It whispers and it clicks. She feels the touch on top of her bare foot, the tentative brush of a feeler. Things scuttle over her toes. The whole surface is alive with tiny creatures, stirring. 

Katya walks out among them. The lamps flicker on, off, on and stay steady.

She hadn’t expected the beauty.

Not every woman is terrified of creepy crawlies. Katya has a soft spot for the unlovely, the unloved. Unlike her father, who had raised her as an exterminator- she runs her service as humane pest removal with much respect for any creature that can survive. Where her father wouldn’t ‘bend to the world’ nor nature, with his hardened, impatient nature Katya comes off as fragile in his perception, but she is anything but. Early on she, alongside her sister, suffered knocks and bruises to the body and soul. “He never could respect the fragility of bones.”  Much like the ‘pests’ she handles, Katya herself was relocated many times, never finding solid ground and permanence in her early life with her father. Len’s pride was often the cause of much difficulty for his daughters, and it’s no wonder the family is split, the daughters estranged from their father. Yet, it was her father who taught her what she knows.

Nineveh is a property development for  the wealthy, meant to tame it’s surroundings, a perfect dwelling in South Africa, one that is escape from the wilds, and certainly not welcoming to ‘unlovely’ creatures, human or otherwise. But is Mr. Brand’s visions for such a great, safe, sterile place doomed? What are the goggas, and can they be conquered? What part does Katya’s father play in it all? What does it mean to have ‘insurance’ as her father does with the places he ‘helps?’ Katya lives in the beautiful home, not unlike a insect herself. Katya with her life experience, her scars internal and external, is much like the unwelcome critters. It’s a study in nature, human, insects… everything we occupy and flee, nothing is really in our control.

The bugs themselves, through Katya’s eyes, are beautiful creatures. The comparison between the human body and Nineveh towards the end rang true, and I would quote it but I’d rather not give anything away. As  she grapples with the creatures her past bites harder than any critters that scar her body, and nothing is lost on a perceptive reader. Henrietta Rose-Innes had me hearing the bugs, smelling the murk and yet seeing the beauty too. Katya is a character that may seem gruff to those with soft hands who distance themselves from the reality of nature, but I loved every bit of grit in her. I have lived around bugs my entire life, from Florida to the Island of Okinawa and yet I think South Africa has me beat. Unique read that takes it’s time with you.

USA release date November 15, 2016

Gallic Books

Aardvark Bureau

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