It is not often one gets to read the story of the great love shared between two charismatic literary luminaries, let alone one set so close to home in an ever-evolving South Africa. The Fifth Mrs Brink is a tale of Karina's grief and recovery following his sudden passing, but more importantly, it is a testament to the quiet, intimate moments they shared, to the beauty of their love.
The Fifth Mrs Brink broke my heart from its early pages. In the evolution of her relationship with Andre and their contented married life, I recognised my own life with my husband. She captures the still life of a happy marriage in a vivid chiaroscuro, with startling emotion and clarity. While they had both loved before, they were each other's great love.
The book is one of startling contrasts. In her grief, Karina is both able to feel small joys like a great afternoon with friends or a good meal, and then fall prey to the ravages of despair and illness. Her South Africa shows the cultured opulence of the Western Cape heaving with great wine, conversation and food, while simultaneously exposing the violation and constant 'pre-traumatic' stress that accompanies a life lived in fear of crime. In the telling of her story, she is unafraid to be contradictory, conflicted, vulnerable and flawed. The result is a beautifully human account of a life that will leave many feeling as if they have made a close friend.
The Fifth Mrs Brink doesn't follow a traditional linear narrative. It winds and flows like a story told at the end of a long evening, diverging into related anecdotes when required. This is an important reflection of Karina's life, where trinkets hold magical significance and moments hold signs that resonate with days past. Everything is connected, and even when terrible, can be beautiful. Life unfolds in parallel to the past.
There is a disarming, compelling rawness to Karina's writing. In many ways it reminded me of the great Elena Ferrante. Maybe it's because of her fearlessness, her fierce independence and her faith in the power of art. You won't read a novel quite like this in 2017, and once you finish it, you will be changed.
Buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore.