The Fetch; a curious title with several meanings, one of which is the usual one, another denotes the length of water over which a given wind has blown until it reaches its final impediment and a third meaning is that of an apparition or wraith. Chas is one of the central characters; he is the life and soul of the party, the one who fades and the one who needs to be fetched. The sea too, pounding on the beach at Slangkop near Kommetjie in the Western Cape, is ever present and William, neighbourhood eccentric and “wild-looking and oddly dressed” childhood friend of Chas, is fascinated by the science behind everything, explains the fetch and is the one who fetches.
The story is told from Nina’s point of view; she is a young woman in her twenties who is smitten by Chas and his party-throwing glamorous lifestyle on display at Midden House, the only “architectural jewel” in the small community. She is plumpish, modest, wears thick-soled fisherman sandals but is also blonde and fresh-faced. Her friend, Fundiswa, is less enamoured with Chas who she calls a “man-whore”. Neville and Sharon run the caravan park and host the very slapdash community forum meeting. One of the pressing matters is how to get rid of Egyptian Geese poo from the lawns; another is, what is to be done about the outcast baboon; perhaps another symbol of the disjointedness of life in this community that each seem to be outcasts of a sort.
The setting is reminiscent of an English village with a manor house where the villagers struggle along while the nobility live the high life. However, the characters are very recognisably South African, hilariously so. The depiction of all the characters through excellent dialogue and vivid yet brief descriptions brings them to life. Sharon, in particular, is so funny. She is one of those vain woman who thinks every man has the hots for her; she brags about her kickass Kegel muscles, proclaims to all about how “lucky she is with her body” and completely fails to notice when snooty old Dot Fawkes disapproves of her revealing attire.
Despite the many laugh-out-loud moments, the novel tackles some relevant topics with a light touch that does not belie their serious and even poignant nature. When Dolly, Chas’s wife, arrives unexpectedly after a long absence, there are further adjustments to daily life and the motley crew of Slangkop are thrown into turmoil. What lies beneath reveals itself over time and Nina learns through her experiences. She is a lovable character who seems timid initially but is not afraid to put herself in awkward situations; her self-deprecatory remarks about herself are very amusing. The scene where she is at Chas’s party and pretends to be interested in the paintings to cover up the fact that no-one was talking to her seemed very familiar.
Once you pick up this book, you will be captivated by the characters, amused and dismayed by their situations and see yourselves in one way or another. A thoroughly enjoyable read.