Bare Ground by Peter Harris (Picador) ISBN: 978 1 77010 581 2
Peter Harris is an award winning South African author of non-fiction, and a lawyer. Perhaps that’s why he chose to go for the fiction option in his third book, considering it unwise to write about greed, corruption and empowerment deals in business, industry and government in real terms. Whatever his reasons, it is the downfall of what could have been an astonishing addition to our increasing list of “state-capture” reading. Right now, it’s “too soon” for fiction.
The plot is strong, and the characters intense, but the detailed reality setting of contemporary Johannesburg just doesn’t sit well with a fictionalised South African president, government ministers, business leaders, and especially the corrupt Indian family connection that keeps cropping up. There are so many obvious clues, and many that made me insanely curious.
To be absolutely fair, the novel provides some bitter criticism of corporate crime and industry collusion with some insightful social commentary on life in the fast lane in the City of Gold. But while the author apparently insists it’s all fiction, the book is too close to reality to feel authentic as either fiction or fact. And the poignant story that Peter Harris hangs his plot around, is sadly left on the sidelines.