“A town can change a character quickly; one can revisit after only a few months and find it is not the same place as it was when one left.
Times change and local councils spend money on new identity just like Barney urgently wanted. (…) The visitor is lost, and it becomes unrecognisable.
When a child leaves their home town where they were born and reared, and moves to pastures green, on their return years later they may find that the roads and fields they scurried around as a child no longer exist; only the memories. ”
Like the town in this quote, can a dramatic event make a man’s character also change?
In this interesting sequel of The Compassionate Terrorist, the reader meets again Barney the fraudster and aggressor: after running away from the Shetlands and being a homeless man in London, he is now hiding in a small South African town. However, when he meets Naomi, a young mother of two children who have disappeared, Barney takes part in their finding, hoping deep inside this will redeem himself.
Unlike the other novels before, this new novel is inspired by real people, and is qualified by the author as “suspense / romance”. Indeed, suspense, love stories, betrayal are only some of the ingredients of this heart-racing story. At the heart of Brian Godfrey’s novel, the characters of Naomi and Barney are like the opposite sides of humanity; with its good and its bad sides, the relation between the two protagonists sometimes questions the very idea of crime and guilt. While Naomi is an innocent victim of manipulation, Barney, the former fraudster who wants to help her, will be faced with consequences he had never thought of. In his search for Naomi’s children, Barney will also search his own way to redemption. Is he becoming a helper or is he still a conman?
Umtata by Brian Godfrey
978-183859 1 403 / Matador (2020)
Review by Ioana Danaila
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.