Bitter Aloes – Stories from the Eastern Cape ★★★★
Marion Baxter, Imprint, R240
An archivist at Rhodes University, Marion Baxter died in 2002 of breast cancer. In her small office she left behind a stack of manuscripts, with this collection of short stories on top. As Prof Dan Wylie says in the book’s foreword, Baxter’s stories are darker and more forbidding than those written by that master, Herman Charles Bosman, and are liberally sprinkled with gothic elements. Prosaic and romantic at times, they can swerve to a more knowing, cynical register, leaving one feeling unsettled, but satisfied. The best story is A Future Without You, which is deceptive with its Mills & Boon title: a woman hears from the townsfolk that she will be going away for a long time. Who could be spreading this rumour? The denouement comes like a blow from behind.