The Cry of the Hangkaka is the story of young Karin and her mother Irene. Shamed by a divorce, Irene seeks to flee with her daughter from post WWII South Africa. Jack, a Scotsman who works at the tin mines in Nigeria, seems to be the answer to Irene’s prayers. In the torrid heat of the Nigerian plateau, Karin is exposed to the lives of the colonisers, colonised, and most of all to the dictatorship of Jack.
The Cry of the Hangkaka
The Cry of the Hangkaka is the story of young Karin and her mother Irene. Shamed by a divorce, Irene seeks to flee with her daughter from post WWII South Africa.
I read, late into the night, cast adrift with Karin, a young girl struggling to make sense of a nightmarish adult world, her only anchors a beautiful, capricious mother and a sadistic step-father, her only salvation school and the joy of reading whatever she can get her hands on.
With jewel-like clarity, with writing that is as fluid as it is creative, Anne Woodborne brings a colonial mining town in Nigeria to life. She steps into Karin’s life, inside her very skin, into a steaming, claustrophobic world, as harsh and hard as the call of the Hangkaka; as surreal and exotic as a waking dream. I read compulsively, hoping Karin would find a way to escape, hoping she wouldn’t … because then this beautifully nuanced story would come to an end.
At a time when the literary machine has many authors pushing out a book a year, this debut novel by an author now in her seventies has the feeling of having percolated for a long time. There is a richness to the language that is often absent from books written in hurry. And the end of the novel is likely to spark debate in book clubs.
Anne Woodborne’s deceptively gentle narrative, about the many guises and limitations of love, pulled me along on its strong, relentless and convoluted current, crossing continents. The clear and steady voice of young Katrin, herself adrift on a course of events beyond her control, guides the reader to the novel’s graceful and redemptive conclusion.