Winner Commonwealth Prize, Africa

Irish Times Book of the Year (Eileen Battersby)

Jack Viljee's hometown of Johannesburg is still divided by apartheid, though the old order is starting to crumble. According to eleven-year-old Jack, the world is a rational and simple place. But if life doesn't conform to Jack's expectations of it, there is always the sympathy and approval of the family's maid to console him. Not that Susie is a pushover. She believes violence, of the non-disfiguring variety, is a healthy form of affection, hence her not infrequent expression, "Jack, I love you so much. I will hit you." Jack himself is not above socking his best friend in the eye or scamming his little sister into picking up the dog mess. The Viljee household, in its small way, mirrors the politics of the country.

This noisy domesticity is upset by the arrival of Susie's fifteen-year-old son. Percy is bored, idle, and full of rage. When Percy catches Jack in an indelibly shameful moment, Jack learns that the smallest act of revenge has consequences beyond his imagining. The world, it turns out, is not so simple.

The Dubious Salvation of Jack V

"Funny, shrewd, unguarded, elegiac: the story of a boy’s and a country’s coming of age, the Dubious Salvation of Jack V is an astounding and indelible debut". Andre Aciman, author of ‘Call me by your name.’

 

"A terrific read. It’s smart, charming, funny, highly astute and subtly political. It’s set in Johannesburg, but the story could map onto life anywhere."  Douglas Coupland, author Generation X.

 

"Strauss's often-hilarious debut captures a remarkable period of time ... in Jack he has created an unlikely, and utterly believable, voice of a generation."  KIRKUS REVIEW

"Strauss writes with poise and comic timing. His prose is formal and correct; he establishes a tone of laconic regret yet sustains a striking lightness of touch particularly in passages of dialogue...It is, above all, rich in symbols and subtexts."  Eileen Battersby, THE IRISH TIMES

Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House / FSG, Macmillan / Berling Verlag

2011

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