The Joy of Receiving Reviews
I’ve been fortunate. My novel, The Zebra Affaire has thankfully enjoyed wonderful early reviews. Unlike a record album that consumes maybe 50 – 60 minutes of a listener’s time, and quick to formulate an opinion, a book such as mine may take several hours, or more, for a reader to complete. For that reader to then take the additional time to reward my work with a review, well I am both grateful and honored.
Touched a Similar Chord in Most Readers
Not surprisingly, as I wrote the book with the clear intent of shining a light on the inhumanity of racism in apartheid South Africa, most readers responded in a similar fashion. They were appalled at the plight of the mixed race couple at the heart of the story, a woman and a man caught in a desperate life-or-death struggle against their bigoted government. Their only crime was that they were in love. But a romance such as theirs–across the color divide, was unacceptable according to apartheid’s twisted ideology. Yes, my intention was to tell a hauntingly poignant love story as a reminder that intolerance cannot, and should not, ever be acceptable in the future. Most of the reviewers, as seen by the beautifully expressed quotes shown below, clearly understood my book’s purpose. Most gratifying.
“Using fine strokes, Mark Fine paints a masterful portrait of the trials of blended romance during a period tense with racial discrimination.”
“Elsa and Stanwell play the star-crossed lovers, brought together by circumstance and fallen in love by choice. So many things that lovers take for granted, Elsa and Stanwell long for. Their love story is a strong defiance against the apartheid.”
“You have two characters, from two different worlds, and despite the systems in place to keep them apart, they find each other, their forbidden love blossoming into something truly remarkable.”
The Animals as Support Characters
Not surprisingly then, The Zebra Affaire is about Africa and humans behaving badly. But it’s also about animals. Be it a personal indulgence (I’ve never felt more vital than on a camera safari in the Southern African bush) and an affinity for the animal kingdom, but the novel is laced with creatures great and small. Some are bush fables illustrating the foibles of men, and at other moments I’m providing eye-witness testimony on the wonder and majesty of the wild game trails.
I confess as I wrote the novel, constructing these animal scenes was second nature to me. I rendered them as authentically as I had experienced them–my memories as a child visiting the Kruger National Park to my last Londolozi safari during the summer of 2006. And as these animals are secondary “characters” in the story, it wasn’t a surprise to me they were overshadowed by the engaging couple, Elsa and Stanwell, and the vile villain Zander in the minds of readers—and as such, seldom mentioned in reviews.
That Unexpected Review: A Game Changer
Then review “number 56” appeared on Amazon. Sure, it was emblazoned with five stars, but in content it was like no other. It was a well-considered rant. Mind you, not against the book. But the writer credits The Zebra Affaire for provoking in her mind a call-to-action on what may well be Africa’s greatest challenge in the 21st Century (and mankind’s most pathetic failing)—the scourge of modern poaching! Let me step aside and let you “listen” to these frustrated words:
“Zebra Affaire got me thinking….
Though apartheid is over, Africa is still in a genocidal struggle~the disgusting slaughter of its precious animals, by poachers! This sickens me. The senseless butchery, all for an ivory trinket or some coward’s libido, ego.
This is a threat way beyond the pain of never seeing a live rhino or majestic elephant walk the earth ever again. These evil thugs, these poachers are destroying us… They gun down the courageous game rangers struggling to protect our animal kingdom.
The blood-money they get from this atrocity only feeds greater atrocities– against humans, because the poachers are cohorts of terrorists, who use ivory to finance their murderous campaigns of fear.”
Then the reviewer proposed an activist remedy:
“This brings me back to “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE” and why this book is important. It reminded me of the sins of apartheid; but more significant it reminded me how civilized societies destroyed apartheid~by boycotts, sanctions and public protests.
The Anti-Poaching movement must do the same, and in protest march on Chinese embassies everywhere. The greedy financiers and corrupt officials, facilitating this rape of our natural birthright, must be boycotted and shamed!” [See the full Amazon review here]