Read Women Write 2014/15: Book 26: Henrietta Rose-Innes: Nineveh

Nineveh, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Cape Town, South Africa, fiction

The first short story I ever read and enjoyed, Promenade, was written by South African writer, Henrietta Rose-Innes. Every time I’ve walked on the Sea Point promenade since I have thought of the story, of the dodges and play fights, and of the loss experienced by the protagonist. I read the story six years ago.

Like many other books I’ve reviewed for this project, I had been meaning to read Nineveh for ages, partly because I had enjoyed Promenade so much, and partly because I loved the cover design. It follows a female protagonist, Katya Grubbs who runs a pest relocation company (Painless Pest Relocations) in Cape Town.

Katya is a bit of a solitary figure, struggles with her familial relationships and at times seems more strongly connected to the words of insects and pests than to people. Somehow, despite this awkwardness, you feel deeply for her, perhaps as you would for that slightly odd member of your family who you want to hug despite their unwillingness. What an interesting character to read – cranky, business savvy, involved in an intensely masculine industry without much comment, and passionate. I found her fascinating.

She’s called in for a special job – an infestation of insects at Nineveh, a luxury estate just outside of Cape Town. The setting is eerie – and that has nothing to do with the mysterious bugs that don’t appear when she visits the site. The setting is made even stranger when Katya’s father appears, causing physical and emotional turmoil as it seems he often does. I found myself turning the pages unsure what to expect, but completely captivated by the characters and setting. The end of a story is often referred to as a climax, and in Nineveh that word finally seems appropriate.

Exciting news is that Rose-Innes’ latest book Green Lion is just out, has another excellent cover, and will soon be added to the other four of her novels on my (real and online) bookshelf.