Before the Knife

Kobo ebook | December 18, 2007

byCarolyn Slaughter

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In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Carolyn Slaughter recalls her childhood in Africa and how the land itself released her from a rage that threatened to destroy her.

For Carolyn Slaughter, who grew up in Botswana in the 1950s, it was the Kalahari Desert that made life bearable. Her father was a cruel and violent district commissioner during the last days of British colonial rule, and their family’s stiff English facade masked an unspeakable household secret. But out in the bush, the intensity of the air and the beauty of the landscape touched her with a kind of feverish grace. She would disappear for hours to watch the flat brown river with its water lilies and crocodiles; the thorn trees and the flocks of flamingos; the local women with their babies strapped to their backs. Filled with the majesty and splendor of the ever-changing desert, Before The Knife is the deeply moving story of a girl who endured and transcended her family’s violence to emerge an impassioned observer and explicator of her world.


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In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Carolyn Slaughter recalls her childhood in Africa and how the land itself released her from a rage that threatened to destroy her.For Carolyn Slaughter, who grew up in Botswana in the 1950s, it was the Kalahari Desert that made life bearable. Her father was a cruel and violent district c...

Format:Kobo ebookPublished:December 18, 2007Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307424936

ISBN - 13:9780307424938

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Customer Reviews of Before the Knife

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from an unusual life ...a terrific writer I just finished my first memoir, Before the Knife by Carolyn Slaughter. Before I talk about the book, let me say a few words about the author. I discovered Carolyn Slaughter 20 odd years ago, purely by accident. I came across her novel, The Banquet in a book store and its tag line “a taut and powerful story of obsessive love” caught my attention. Well of course it did. At the time I was madly (and a little obsessively) in love myself. I devoured the book and then went looking for more. In a second hand store I came across her novel Relations (which is also known as The Story of the Weasel in that weird way books have their name changed between the UK and North America). That book was stunning. That book caused me to write a letter to Ms. Slaughter, the first and only fan letter I have ever written to an author. A letter to which she replied. In total I have read six novels by Ms. Slaughter (I highly recommend Magdalene as well as the two I have already mentioned) and I count myself a huge fan. She is an immensely talented writer. Her memoir wasn’t what I expected, however, and I can’t say I loved it. Born in India, her parents moved to Africa when Slaughter was very young. Her father had some sort of government job; her mother was mostly emotionally unavailable and Carolyn, her older sister, Angela and her younger sister, Susan had a weird and unhappy childhood. Carolyn prefaces her story by telling the reader of a horrific incident that happened to her when she was six. Then she goes on to say that Before the Knife isn’t a memoir about that. Except it is - because Carolyn was clearly shaped by what happened to her. She does her best to survive her cruel mother and horrible father and much of her survival depends on her affinity with the land. She clearly loves Africa, its wild and exotic landscape a place of refuge for her. The story covers Slaughter’s life from her arrival in Africa to her return to England when she’s 16 or so. The pages in between are filled with striking images of the land, the people (both blacks and whites) who occupied it and Slaughter’s complicated and strained relationship with her siblings and parents. She’s not entirely likable – prone to violence against others and herself. It’s not until years later, when she herself remembers what had transpired when she was just a little girl, that her story comes into focus. By then, though, I felt disconnected from her – the strange little bits of revealed life never really coming together. And I really wish she’d talked about writing. Nevertheless, I have no regrets about reading her story. There was certainly nothing ordinary about it!
Date published: 2010-02-05