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Book Review – Softness Of The Lime

Softness Of The Lime by Maxine Case (Umuzi) ISBN: 978 1 4152 0933 2

Drawing on the history of her ancestors, Maxine Case has produced an incredibly moving account of life in the Cape from 1782.

Softness Of The Lime is a story of love and loss, and ultimately about how we carry our past inside our souls. It is the story of Geert van Baardwijk, a wealthy Dutch heir who inherits a young slave, Lena, from his father, has a child with her, and falls in love. Their secret life is disrupted when his business misfortunes drive him to seek a socially suitable Dutch wife, with a good dowry and society connections, and the heartbreak begins. The child is sent away, but Geert refuses to sell Lena.

The story is almost poetic in places – depicting the history, the smells, the food and the lifestyle of this far-away colony. The style is very carefully crafted but I found it got in the way of the 2 protagonists individual voices, in the alternating chapters from each point of view, and the pace dragged at times.

Geert is such a troubled and damaged creature, and Lena is defined by the deep longing for her roots that only a slave can know. It is a heart-breaking story in very many ways. It stayed with me for ages after I put it down.

The background is very well researched, the prose beautifully crafted, and the story one that needs to be told. Do read it.

Judy Ward

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