The Rock Alphabet

2004
Kwela Books

rock alphabet cover

The cave was small and low, a slitted eye between rocky lids. The large woman crashed through the bushes towards it – breaking branches, clumsy, sweating. Her plait had wrapped itself around her neck, and she pulled it impatiently out of the damp collar of her khaki shirt and flicked it back.

Inside the cave, there were dassie droppings piled glossy black against the back wall, and a dank smell. Signs that something had lived there, once. The sandy floor dipped down. She crouched, sniffed, blinded in the greenish-black dark. A movement, a little wriggle – there, deep in the quick of the cave. And then she saw them.

The discovery of two small children hiding in a cave in the remote Cederberg mountains sets in motion this story of memory, loss, love and reclamation. Brought to live in the city, silent Flin remains an untamed spirit and longs always for the wilderness; while Jean is haunted into adulthood by the voice of his vanished brother. Twelve years later, Ivy catalogues a dusty archaeological collection: her beloved grandmother’s legacy. A trail of the lost artefacts leads Ivy back to the mountains, with their secrets, their hidden paintings and their unearthly light. And to Jean.

“A book about puzzles, about signs, about systems of signification. It is itself a colourful and complex mosaic, too rich to be done justice to in a review. It is a novel to read, savour and reread.” – Michiel Heyns

Purchase here.

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