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Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite
"Under Table Mountain" by Nigel Patten is a lovely historical account of the close of the nineteenth century in South Africa. As the story opens, Colonial Britain has ongoing conflict with the two Boar republics. Through the tension and turmoil of the Johannesburg and Capetown settings we meet the Juta family. Juta is a barrister and also the Speaker of the Cape House. As such, he entertains numerous celebrities and social figures in his home and, as a result, his youngest daughter Louise begins to formulate her own way of viewing traditional British royalty and privilege.
When grown, Louise leaves South Africa to be educated in England. It is as an adult in her final years of life that she meets the author Nigel Patten. For countless days, Patten and Louise meet to play Scrabble and during their conversations, the author is able to piece together valuable parts of history and the events leading up to a dramatic change of government in South Africa.
The book is highly scholarly and very well researched. The character development is such that readers will find themselves identifying with various factions of the political arena. The reader who sticks with this slightly pedantic novel will be delighted with their own historical education as well as the development of believable characters who firmly adhere to their convictions. Each character's motivation to carry through with his own values and moral judgments is clearly defined through historical decisions and personal turmoil. All in all,this is a wonderful study of colonial tradition versus the demands of the current society.