Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon by Jenny Robson #review

Title: Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon
Author: Jenny Robson
Publisher: Tafelberg, 2013

Louise and Faheema are a bit of an odd couple, but they’ve been best friends since they first started school together in the fictional Western Cape town of Gap Falls. The girls often spend many hours at their favourite waterfall, which in a way grows to become a powerful metaphor for their friendship.

Though their cultural differences are vast, the two girls are nearly inseparable, mainly because they each seek to understand the other. This friendship endures for many years, despite their parents’ initial misgivings.

Yet as they grow up together, their bond comes under increasing fire from those who seek to separate them, especially in the light of incidences of terrorism perpetrated by religious extremists – Louise goes to great pains to point out that the extremists are not representative of the entire religion. Her frustration is palpable because her words often fall on deaf ears.

Monday Evening, Thursday Afternoon is written from Louise’s point of view, clearly in the aftermath of whatever separated her from her friend. She uses a format that addresses Faheema directly, a kind of hybrid journal/letter, which gives us an intensely personal and emotional account of the friendship between the two girls, and what obstacles they faced together. You’d have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by Louise’s impassioned words as she tries to unpick the series of events that eventually parted them.

Author Jenny Robson’s message is clear: as adults we so easily allow ourselves to be swayed by differences and our own and others’ prejudices, as we descend into hypocrisy. The younger generation are (mostly) potential bridge builders between cultures, and are in a position to present solutions instead of creating further problems. Most importantly, Robson underscores the importance of love and tolerance, which is often so lacking in the thoughts and deeds of many.

Robson’s writing is lyrical and heartfelt, and I was completely immersed in Louise’s world, and felt her triumphs and sorrows as she shaped her story. In the light of current affairs, this novel is also an important reminder for us to focus rather on our common ground than be ruled by hate- and fear-mongering. Robson has given us a wonderful, brave book that has been released at a time when it’s needed most, and I’ll happily recommend this story for ages ten and older.

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