Book Review - Jimfish

by Christopher Hope (Atlantic Books) ISBN: 9780857898067

Christopher Hope, the author of this satirical comment on the last days of Apartheid and its classification laws and world power hungry leaders, is a South African novelist well known for his writings on racism and politics. 

Jim Fish, is an insulting term for a black man. Despite its quirkiness, good writing and satirical if sometimes dark humour Jimfish is a book I was happy to put down, maybe because the scenes are too vivid and unsettling. Jimfish starts with the puzzle of what race Sergeant Arlow, the entire police force of the Indian Ocean Island of Port Pallid, is going to classify a boy presented to him by the old skipper of an inshore trawler.
'If he's white he's not the right sort of white .But if he's black who can say' says the Sergeant perplexed by the young man who to some looked white, to others tan or honey coloured. He decides to call him Jimfish and puts him to work in his garden where Jimfish falls under the influence of the gardener Soviet Malala, whose mother had been influenced by the Russian Revolution. Whilst working in the garden, Jimfish falls in love with Lunamiel, the Sergeant's daughter. The Sergeant is less than delighted. 

And so begin Jimfish's travels through various African and other countries, where innocent and looking for 'the right side of history' he finds himself propelled into the role of victim and witness of many and various atrocities. 

This book is described as a 'culmination of a life time of writing', Christopher Hope's writing. Jimfish is the vehicle to show some of the 'facts,' which 'easily outstripped fiction' of incidents he witnessed during his lifetime. 

As a political satire I rank it as a good book, as an easy relaxing read I don't rate it with the same amount of enthusiasm. 

Jane Evans


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