Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Haunting" Oprah Magazine reviews Walk

It is 1782, and the 729-ton Grosvenor has run aground on the coast of Pondoland. So begins James Whyle’s second novel, Walk (Jacana), so titled for the trek the castaways undertake, by foot, to reach the Cape Colony. This representation of William Hubberly’s journey is a searing tale of paralysing thirst, gut-wrenching hunger and, ultimately, survival. Diary-style entries record the survivors’ struggles as they split into two groups and journey along the treacherous coastline. Each morning the characters "fire their brands and depart before dawn," feeding on limpets and crabs, seeking shelter in dunes and hiding from wild beasts as the day progresses. Whyle's tone is almost meditative, quietly descriptive, taking on a rhythmic quality and capturing the violent monotony of each day as the characters come closer to their destination – or, death.

Read the full review here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Not a read you will soon forget.

This interface of white people and the Xhosa seems to be Whyle’s current and enduring fascination, and he renders it pared down to the essentials, in measured and beautiful prose.
Original sources of diaries, reports and other documents are used to underpin a fictional realisation of events, some real and some imagined. Set in pristine paradise, it is not a read you will soon forget.
This small gem deserves a place on the bookshelves of serious readers; a cherished fragment, unpretentious and incomplete, it creates an enduring set of images...

Jane Rosenthal in the Mail and Guardian.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Strangers in a strange land". Darrel Bristow-Bovey reviews Walk

In other hands these encounters between Europe and Africa would be lousy with meaning and allegory and retrospective wisdom, but there are no morals here. Everything is an inexplicable sequence of often terrible events without cause and effect, the way life can be. Things just happen, one after the other like feet walking, and the sand and salt scour away symbolism and significance until what's left is a brutal poetry of indifference, another verse of a violent song of a violent land, neither consoling nor too pessimistic.
Whyle's writing is lean and spare - a much abused phrase when describing male South African prose stylists - but it generates hard beauty: "They were weak and very thin, like assemblies of driftwood draped in tattered cloth and knocked about by the wind, jerking puppet mendicants on a fine firm sandy beach in the rain. Each one carrying fire."

Read  whole review here

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tuesday the 18th of November

Exclusive Books, Rosebank

He passed the village where the bullock had been slaughtered and went on and walked throughout the night.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday the 14th of November

He could smell the smoky mushroom smell of the bowl and the sharp clean tang of the soured milk. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thursday 31st of October, 1782 - Fish River Mouth

Fish River Sun Country Club, 2013.

The men were painted with red clay and armed with lances and shields. They examined the castaways and talked and debated among themselves and then the stoning began. The castaways knelt and bled and begged for mercy and the men came in among them. They took Mr Williams and dragged him to the river and threw him into it. Mr Taylor and the boy escaped unnoticed to the edge of the dune forest. They watched as Mr Williams struggled to his feet chest deep in the stream. He tried to swim for the far side. The men stoned him as he swam and a rock struck him on the head and then another and he sank and the men shouted to see it.

The Walk

It started at Lambasi in northern Pondoland and it ended not far from what we now know as Port Elizabeth. It is a hike that every South African should have the privilege of taking. For the survivors of the Grosvenor, as they clambered onto the rocks in 1792, they might as well have crash landed on Mars. 

Walk takes the reader, step by step, day by day, on the castaway's horrific journey. While indisputably fiction, it steers a good deal closer to the historical truth than most nonfiction found on the shelves.

Walk is tale of suffering rivaling Aspley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World. It is the true story of a boy's survival in the face of impossible odds. It is a haunting parable on the meeting of Europe and Africa.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday the 28th of September

Kobonqaba River

They saw a group of elephants, grey beasts which rolled and frolicked and pirouetted massively in the mud and dipped their trunks into the water and sucked it in and threw it out into the sky like blowing whales.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday the 17th of September

Already the sand was building up against his form and the boy, his apprentice these four years, carefully drank the water in the shells he had brought and then he went a little way apart from the company and sat on the sand and watched the big swells roll in and rise up steep and curve their clean lips forward and crash down upon themselves in great heaves of white water.

The castaways were somewhere between the Shixini and Qora rivers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday the 15th of September

At dawn they rose and built up the fire and prepared to walk but Mr Shaw was not able to stand. He lay on the sand and his skin was draped upon his bones like the rags that covered his nakedness. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday the 12th of September

The dawn came... 

The dawn came and with it a slanting rain and mist and they proceeded and they halted at low tide for shellfish. They stopped often to wait for Mr Shaw. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday the 6th of September - Dwesa

Dwesa Wildlife Reserve

The castaways stood in awe and the monster stepped forward and flapped its grey ears and lifted up its head. It curled its trunk to the sky and emitted a shrieking blast of sound that sent them scuttling back along the beach like crabs before an advancing wave.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday the 2nd of September

...a strange procession in the roar of the surf, pilgrims, perhaps, who had journeyed to the land of the dead and returned much reduced, each man holding aloft his smoking standard.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday the 1st of September

They awoke shivering in mist and drizzle and moved the fire to a more sheltered spot and built it up and chose their brands and then they proceeded down the coast.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

At half past twelve she parted into two halves...

George Carter, a jobbing writer and painter, met Irishman John Hynes on a passage to India and learnt the story of the wreck and the walk which followed it. He proceeded to disseminate it in print and oils. Samuel Johnson urged his friend Mrs Thrale to read Carter’s account. Charles Dickens wrote about the castaways in an essay, ‘The Long Voyage’, calling the tale, ‘the most beautiful I know associated with ship wreck’.