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Penguin Random House

The Theory of Flight, by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu

The Theory of Flight, by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu

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On the third of September, not so long ago, something truly wondrous happened on the Beauford Farm and Estate. At the moment of her death, Imogen Zula Nyoni – Genie – was seen to fly away on a giant pair of silver wings ...’
 
Said to have hatched from a golden egg, Genie spends her childhood playing in a field of sunflowers as her country reawakens after a fierce civil war.
 
But Genie’s story stretches back much further: it tells of her grandfather, who quenched his wanderlust by walking into the Indian Ocean, and of her father, who spent countless hours building model aeroplanes to catch up with him. It is the tale of her mother, a singer self-styled after Dolly Parton with a dream of travelling to Nashville, and of her grandmother, who did everything in her power to raise her children to have character.
 
With the lightest of touches, a cast of unforgettable characters, and moments of surreal beauty, The Theory of Flight  sketches decades of history in this unnamed Southern African nation. It does not dwell on what has been lost in its war, but on the daily triumphs of its people, the necessity of art, and the power of its visionaries to take flight.
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Customer Reviews

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Strange and Wonderful Read

What a wonderfully strange and beautiful novel!

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I am surprised at how much I loved this book! I don’t tend to like books that have narratives that are abstract but this one actually had me fully invested.

What I find funny is that I read the last chapters a few hours ago and I am still very confused about Genie’s death. It’s the strangest thing but even though I don’t 100% get the book as far as plot, action, narrative is concerned…I get it on a deeper, visceral level. My body and my being understand this book.

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There is something special about the way that Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu writes…I don’t know quite how to articulate it expect to say that she writes with a keen understanding of the complexity of existence. This book is intelligent, abstract while still being concrete.

It’s a book about dreams and destiny. It’s about nation, history, family and the impact of a life. It’s about choices and the impact those choices have on individuals, families and communities. The multi-perspective approach also lend itself well to exploring so many characters.

This book is both familiar and yet also beyond full comprehension. This is one of those books that will be just as good the second time around - which coming from me is saying something because I don’t generally reread books.

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I highly recommend this book if you’re into experimental fiction or fiction whose value lies beyond the plot. I’m interested to see what this author does in the future…

K
Kendall Rae Behr
Read this ASAP

This is absolutely my favourite book in 2019. I first heard about it at the 2018 South African Book Fair when I heard the author on a panel about magical realism explain that she didn't see her work as magical, because what happens is true. I think that a lot of African fiction gets labeled as magical realism instead of being taken seriously and seen for what they are: wonderful ways of exploring old ideas. The Theory of Flight will fill you with hope and leave you with a wonderful taste at the back of your mouth - and a hunger for her next book, which is coming out soon.

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