Book Review: The Fetch – Austen Powers, Or Literature Made Literal

July 27, 2015

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

The Fetch by Finuala Dowling

 

Long-time Kalk Bay resident Finuala Dowling is ideally placed to observe the minutia that make her fellow Peninsula residents as idiosynchratic as they are. Her insights make the fictional stories that she writes – set in that gloriously beautiful corner of South Africa – certifiably compelling, but more than that, so believable that the author’s acquaintances must peruse each page expecting to recognise, if not a version of themselves, then a friend.

The Fetch is set in the hamlet of Slangkop – inspired, apparently, but Soetwater, near Kommetjie – which is dominated by the oversized personality of one Chas Fawkes, resident at Midden House, the principal architectural and historical structure in the area.

He is a chronically insecure brat who survives on charm and having both desirable material means and a charisma lacking in his neighbours. They are the more interesting and more easily likeable characters: an introverted librarian; a capable but socially inept environmentalist; an earthy couple who run the town’s campsite and the ditzy Dolly, a lush and a gold-digger whose only ever sensible decision is to take herself out of the life of the son she has with Chas.

Dowling deals with each of her characters compassionately, without ever letting them off the hook. They’re allowed to make foolish, undeniably human decisions, but each of those decisions has consequences; results that make sense and that entertain as they draw readers into relationships with the protagonists.

In the best traditions of the more acerbic examples of classic romantic fiction, The Fetch offers readers the chance to insinuate themselves into an intimate community to a degree where they cheer the story’s protagonists’ better decisions and feel frustrated when immaturity or flat-out stupidity is apparently endorsed.

A rich, satisfying tale with an impact far in excess of the tiny, isolated geographical area in which it takes place.

 

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