Read an excerpt from A Gap in the Hedge – the new South African novel that everyone is talking about.
A Gap in the Hedge is the third novel from Johan Vlok Louw, the author of Eric the Brave and Karoo Dusk.
Karin Schimke called the book ‘a haunting puzzle of a story rendered in language that is simultaneously blunt and lyrical’, adding ‘I couldn’t read another novel for days after as the last waves of the narrative lapped against my consciousness.’
In a review for The Gremlin, Brian Joss called A Gap in the Hedge ‘a compulsive read’, adding ‘the climax is like finding the final missing piece, that you thought was lost, of a complicated 10 000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s a crime story with an unusual twist and a dash of human kindness.’
Read an excerpt from A Gap in the Hedge, shared by Penguin Random House SA:
I reckon it’s very mean to cut a man out of the world and leave only his shadow. What if it gets lonely, misses itself? Because it does, you know?
I knew a snow angel once, and he told me so.
Somewhere in a place beyond sleep, adrift, he was aware of rain drumming on corrugated iron. Only that and a name came to him in his waking moments as drops driven by gusty winds splattered and destroyed themselves to mist against the roof and walls and window panes of the house.
It seeped onto ceilings, then dripped and piddled onto the old wooden floors around him.
Karl. Drip, drip, drip.
He is fully awake now, on his back, under a blanket in the sudden absence of noise. A dark, dead quiet has fallen over the world. The rain has stopped, the wind has died. The moon is a round white stain outside his window.
Fingers of ice, reaching.
He sits up.
His body is sore, stiffened by sleep. The thin camping mattress and blanket rolled out onto planks has been too hard, the rest too absolute. A respite, snatched away in a room smelling of old
mould and new wet.
Karl sits listening, head bent. He hugs his knees to his chest and stares absently at peeling wallpaper, then up at the ceiling.
Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen.
It’s immensely quiet.
He gets up stiffly, goes over to the door, and tries the handle.
The door is locked, key in it.
In the corridor doors lead to empty rooms. All of this is right here and all of it is touchable. Moonlight sits on walls like pale pictures painted.
Karl exists, he thinks. My shadow over there says that he does. Look, it moves, as I do.
On the front stoep, he stands. It’s all real. The clouds too are passing. Bright stars are visible, a large leafy tree moving in a slight breeze. He sees a hedge with grassland beyond and lights in the distance.
From under the tree he looks back at himself in the dark, turning to go into a house, to lock a bedroom door, to fold a blanket over.