Foreword Reviews

Lacuna

In Fiona Snyckers’s dark and riveting novel Lacuna, a young South African woman struggles in the aftermath of a gang rape.

Lucy Lurie’s brutal assault is a personal tragedy and the perceived pivotal event of John Coetzee’s novel Disgrace. Lacuna challenges Disgrace, allowing Lucy to reject her role as Coetzee’s tacit muse, the attack upon whom was detached from the novel’s plot.

“Fiction-Lucy,” as Lucy calls her alter ego, becomes pregnant because of the rapes; she decides to have the baby, believing that her mixed-race child will represent a new South Africa. In Lacuna, Lucy gulps down morning-after pills, recalling her pain and her attackers’ ejaculatory “grunts of frustration and triumph.” The rape is a horrific violation—not a male author’s noble literary device. Indeed, Lacuna skewers John Coetzee, who’s depicted as a peevish, sexist professor, approaching “academic obscurity” before he’s inspired to write his acclaimed Disgrace. Lacuna‘s hypocritical Coetzee later moves to a “white” and “beguiling” city in Australia, far from South Africa’s high crime rates.

Though Lacuna is weighted with anguish, it also includes twists of mordant humor. Lucy creates a new fashion statement, dressing in excessive, protective layers—“Raped Chic,” as she describes it. She imagines herself jetting off to Australia and confronting Coetzee; in reality, she admits that she is near-agoraphobic, can’t afford to travel, and would be just as likely to “fly to the moon.”

Lucy is an erratic narrator, caught up in her fantasies of recompense. Told that she is lucky to be alive after her attack, and that many poor Black women live under the constant threat of sexual violence, she struggles with survivor’s guilt and privilege. Yet with hope, bitterness, and confusion, Lacuna’s Lucy speaks into the female void of Disgrace, desperate to tell her own story.

Reviewed by Meg Nola

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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