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Book review: The Inn at Helsvlakte by Patricia Schonstein

Lockdown reads

'The Inn at Helsvlakte' is set in a Karoo-like, mythical desert landscape. Picture by Red Charlie/Unsplash

Review by Lesley Thomson

I really enjoyed this book with its combination of war, romance, humour and great imagination. Tremendous characters, some more eccentric than others, weave a fast-paced adult fairy-tale.

Set in a mythical Karoo-like landscape, government soldiers are ambushed by separatist guerrillas and the only survivor, the Captain, is taken in and cared for at the remote Inn at Helsvlakte. A pastor and a librarian, with the help of Kitty, all living at the Inn, erect an incredible monument to the brave soldiers who lost their lives in this ambush.

Kitty, wheelwright, blacksmith, harpist, fine horse-woman, wife of the hard-drinking innkeeper, makes a golden mask for the badly disfigured Captain. Why?

The story moves between the Inn and the Cape Town taverns, opera house and theatres – and a circus – with Boaz and his mule cart exchanging supplies and gossip. He also brings a young man who holds the Captain responsible for the brutal loss of his family and torching of their farm.

As the fortune teller in the docklands, holding up her tarot cards called out, “Futures! Futures told! What will be, will be! Come hear it all! Paths cross. Lives cross, and we are blind to them! Let me show you the intersections.”

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The descriptions of the changing seasons on the arid terrain are superb. As Boaz would say, “The earth abides … How we live is left to our own discretions. We can stay in the shallows, or we can seek depth.”

The Inn at Helsvlakte is present-day troubadour Patricia Schonstein’s bewitching tale of love and betrayal, family, human foibles and the theatre of war.

**ISBN 9 781 485 904168 – Published by Penguin Random House.

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