The Inn at Helsvlakte

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This, my seventh novel, is a tragedy touched by farce, set within an incestuous group of lives that are bound by secrets and lies, betrayals and loyalties, love and catastrophe.

This multi-layered novel of war, love, betrayal and truth unfolds during a civil war fought between the State Army and Separatists on the Karoo-like landscape of a mythical country.

Military dispatches reveal that Separatists have moved into the western territory of Helsvlakte, intending to annex it. A Captain is dispatched with a group of mounted soldiers to investigate. They are catastrophically ambushed in a remote area, where the only habitation is an inn for travellers. Only the critically injured Captain and military pastor are not killed outright. Their lives are saved by the innkeeper and his wife. By extraordinary chance, the innkeeper’s wife and the Captain share a secret past.

The ambush site, which is strewn with weapons, rags from sun and wind-ripped uniforms and the bones of men and horses holds numerous people in its thrall, as does the inn itself.

Years after the ambush, a young man who witnessed the destruction of his family and home by soldiers, hears of the Captain’s residence at the inn. He holds this soldier personally responsible and sets out to seek revenge.

In the style of a Shakespearean Fool, a purveyor of military uniforms underscores the drama and tragedy of the civil war. Alongside him, a transporter who services remote outposts holds some of the truths, but not all, that bind together the characters of this novel in a compelling tableau of the recurring narratives in everyday lives.

The Inn at Helsvlakte  is a bewitching tale of love and betrayal, family, human foibles and the theatre of war.

Editions:


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English Paperback

Published by Penguin Fiction ISBN: 978-1-48590-416-8 216 pages
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English eBook

ISBN: 978-1-48590-449-6 Published by Peguin Books
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Reviews:


“The Inn at Helsvlakte is a literary masterpiece, handled with extraordinary skill and an underlying dark humour that spills over into the grotesque. Fearless and riveting in its cathartic power, it is a ground-breaking book that will hold the reader spellbound.”
~ Dr Ute Ben Yosef, former Head Librarian, Jacob Gitlin Library, Cape Town
“This carefully crafted story moves to its finale with the relentless inevitability of a Greek tragedy. We draw a breath of awe at the full perfection of the storytelling. Patricia Schonstein has given us a novel to savour.”
~ Jennifer de Klerk, Editor, Artslink
“Schonstein’s writing style is a beguiling mix of lyrical, sensual description and shocking human behaviour. A visual banquet from cover to close.”
~ Nancy Richards South African Country Life, April 2020
“Throughout her long and celebrated career, Schonstein has woven a certain sense of magic into tales that often draw significantly from troubling and traumatic historical events. The Inn at Helsvlakte is a captivating tale of love and survival that lingers like a beautiful and haunting folksong.”
~ Bargain Books March 2020 Local Books Recommendations
“A gripping tale.”
~ Hayden Horner, Press Reader, The Citizen 12 March 2020
“The Inn at Helsvlakte is testimony to the singular imagination and meticulous craftsmanship of South African novelist, poet and anthologist, Patricia Schonstein. In its scope and detail, this, her seventh novel, is quite simply breath-taking. The narrative both intrigues and compels. It is a creative tour de force.”
~ Moira Lovell, The Witness
“Intensly satisfying and beautifully crafted.”
~ Sue Grant-Marshall, Radio Today: Reading Matters April 2020
“A mesmerising read.”
~ Marike Watson Woman & Home 20 May 2020
“Tremendous characters weave a fast-paced adult fairy-tale. The descriptions of the changing seasons on the arid terrain are superb.”
~ Lesley Thomson The Meander Chronicle 25 May 2020
“The Inn at Helsvlakte is a strange and wonderful story, shot through with a sense of fable and mystery.”
~ Vivien Horler, The Books Page, June 2020
“Reminiscent of Middelpost and Waiting for the Barbarians”
~ David Bristow, The Books Page, June 2020
“When I finished it I sat back with a sjoe! and felt like I’d just witnessed a grand spectacle. It’s written so economically yet it’s coloured and layered—a rich carnival.”
~ Adelle Horler
“This carefully crafted story moves to its finale with the relentless inevitability of a Greek tragedy. We draw a breath of awe at the full perfection of the storytelling. Patricia Schonstein has given us a novel to savour.”
~ Jennifer de Klerk, Editor, Artslink
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