Karina Szczurek met An­dré P Brink when she or­gan­ised a con­fer­ence on South African lit­er­a­ture in her then home of Aus­tria. The two fell in love and they ended up spend­ing the last decade of Brink’s life to­gether. This beau­ti­fully writ­ten mem­oir de­tails the process of grief that the au­thor went through af­ter los­ing her hus­band.

The Fifth Mrs Brink is much more than an ac­count of deal­ing with the death of a loved one, though – it is a mov­ing love story and a fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of the au­thor’s no­madic child­hood as her fam­ily fled from op­pres­sive Poland. Szczurek at­tempted to make her home in the USA, Aus­tria and Wales, be­fore fi­nally end­ing up in SA. She writes that she first fell in love with SA lit­er­a­ture, then with the coun­try it­self, and fi­nally, with the man who be­came her hus­band.

Mem­o­ries of her child­hood and de­scrip­tions of their time to­gether are in­ter­spersed with diary en­tries (mostly from the year af­ter Brink’s death); they lend the book a rare in­ti­macy and in­ten­sity. The Fifth Mrs

Brink also serves as an ode to her friend­ships, many of them with other writ­ers, as well as to the heal­ing power of writ­ing.

Szczurek is an ex­tremely tal­ented writer (her sec­ond novel is due to be pub­lished in 2018) and her use of lan­guage, par­tic­u­larly when writ­ing about love, is sim­ply beau­ti­ful. Not only is this novel an in­sight into the fi­nal years of one of our most ac­claimed writ­ers, it also pro­vides a well-writ­ten guide through the process of griev­ing.

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