'An exceptional debut' Independent
Alex is twelve, and he lives with his younger brother and his parents in a dirt-poor white neighbourhood in 1980s South Africa. He and Kevin are trying to grow up, while their mother, Grace, is simply trying to keep them safe. Apart from the usual lessons of childhood, the boys are finding out about deceit, petty crime and casual violence, and the person that's teaching them is their father. A devious, self-centred, volatile man, Bruce Thorne sees the world as a battleground where the winner is the one who throws the first punch. Ruling the family through fear, it is only when he abandons them for a teenage lover that their problems really begin.
Exposing the rotten, insidious patterns of fathering that most societies still ignore, Choke Chain shows two boys struggling to find steady ground in a disintegrating household. Watching quietly as their mother diminishes in the black light of her husband, they learn that not all adults are right and true - that some have evil bred, or beaten, into them.
Opening with a thunderstorm and hail 'the size of apricots', this extraordinary first novel is a series of emotional storms and aftershocks, with any brightness on the horizon shadowed by gathering dark. Beautifully written and intensely moving, the novel builds to the drama of its conclusion: the turbulence turning to frenzy and clearing, finally, to some redemptive light.
'As compelling as it is tough, sidestepping piety in favour of clear-eyed infectious anger' Sunday Times
Irene Dalila Mwathi comes from Kenya with a brutally violent personal history. Once she wanted to be a journalist, now all she wants is to be safe. When she finally arrives, bewildered, in London, she is attacked by the very people paid to protect her, and she has no choice but to step out on her own into this strange new world. Through a dizzying array of interviews, lawyer’s meetings, regulations and detention centres, she realises that what she faces may be no less dangerous than the violence she has fled.
Written with grace, humour and compassion, this timely and thought-provoking novel tackles its uncomfortable subject matter in a deeply affecting way. A book about forging dignity in a world of tragedy, and raising issues about immigration and asylum-seekers through the story of one woman’s plight, Dalila is a necessary tale of our times. It is also a work of great literary power: a slow-burning, spell-binding novel about how we treat the vulnerable and dispossessed that will leave its readers devastated.
Jason Donald was born in Scotland and grew up in South Africa. He studied English Literature and Philosophy at St Andrews University and, in 2005, graduated from Glasgow University’s Creative Writing Masters Degree programme with distinction. His first novel, Choke Chain, was published by Cape in 2009.