Author: Henrietta Rose-Innes
Publisher: Aardvark Bureau
Publication Date: 15th November 2016
Rating: 3.5/5. Stars
TW: insects, child abuse/neglect, drug abuse
Summary: Katya Grubbs, like her father before her, deals in ‘the unlovely and unloved’. Yet in contrast to her father, she is not in the business of pest extermination, but pest relocation.
Katya’s unconventional approach brings her to the attention of a property developer whose luxury estate on the fringes of Cape Town, Nineveh, remains uninhabited thanks to an infestation of mysterious insects. As Katya is drawn ever deeper into the chaotic urban wilderness of Nineveh, she must confront unwelcome intrusions from her own past.
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Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This story is about family and dealing with your past. Katya has a lot of that to do. Growing up her father was a renowned pest-exterminator, but not a good person. Still she decided to follow into his footsteps, but instead of killing the insects she captures and relocated them. She thought she was done with her past, that she had dealt with it (mostly at least), but her childhood days still hunt her. Nineveh, a luxury estate in work, has been invaded by the mysterious “gogga” (an afrikaans word for all types of insects and bugs). This insect however knows how to make itself rare and on her search for the insect, Katya has to search her past as well.
While I’ve read a couple of books set in South Africa already, I’ve never read one about pest-extermination, nor about pest-relocation. This was definitely a very interesting book.
My first thought was that I really liked the cover and it fits the story nicely.
Katya is a fascinating main character. She is very complex and interesting. She hates change and is glad to have found a place to stay, after her father kept moving with his children when she was young. She prefers to be alone and doesn’t have many attachments. Her house is bare. Her relationship with her sister is barely existent, the strongest bond they have is through Katya’s nephew, who helps Katya with her work sometimes. She prefers insects over people. Because of this not much time is spent with human interaction and rather focused on her thoughts, feelings and discoveries of her past (for example that her father, who she as kid just thought of as strikt, was actually abusive towards her sister and her.)
At times this was too much for me and took away from my enjoyment of the book. However Rose-Innes built a fascinating world with lovely landscapes, so I could enjoy it. I normally don’t mind character centric stories but in this case it sometimes felt too much. There also were some scenes that dragged quite a bit, so despite it being a very short book I took a while to read it (and even longer to writer this review). The characters however stayed with me and the writing was truly wonderful.