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Meg Bergman is fifteen and fed up. She lives in a tiny town in rural 1990s South Africa - a hot-bed of traditionalism, racial tension and (in Meg's eyes) ordinariness. Meg has no friends either, due largely to what the community sees as her mother's interfering attempts to educate farm workers about AIDS. But one day Xanthe arrives - cool, urban, feisty Xanthe, who for some unknown reason seems to want to hang out with Meg.
Xanthe arrives into Meg's life like a hurricane, offering her a look at a teenage life she never knew existed. But cracks quickly begin to show in their friendship when Meg's childhood friend Simon returns from his gap year travels. LEOPOLD BLUE is an emotionally taut and beautifully-written story from a debut author with a mesmerising voice.
say?’ Mum asked, feigning a casual tone. ‘Hmm? Oh, the usual. Farm, baboons, rain.’ Dad chuckled. ‘Tokkie van Jaarsveld saw a leopard up in the foothills. Twice. Haven’t had a leopard around here for ages. Someone needs to tell the spotted fellow to get the hell out of that valley.’ Tokkie was the largest sheep farmer in the area. He hated leopards. ‘I wasn’t talking about farming chitchat,’ Mum said. Dad stiffened. He turned to Mum, the silence of the past week revealing itself in a flash
changed and she pressed them into mine and it was not about the smoke anymore but about the lips and the pressure of her hand on my neck. Then the smoke inside forced its way out and I pulled away, spluttering out the foreign substance. Xanthe lay down, arms stretched over her head. ‘You’ll get it soon enough.’ Her voice was lazy and thick. I stayed seated, staring straight ahead. The swishing branches of the willow trees on the opposite bank looked like a dancer’s fingers gently trailing the
home. Mum said that what convinced her that Dad was the man for her was that he was the only person she would happily travel the world with. I turned and looked across at Beth. She’d fallen asleep; her lovely long dark lashes balanced shut against each other. She looked angelic; you couldn’t believe that such an open, pretty face was capable of such – I leaned forward cautiously. Her hand, the one that had been guarding her pocket all weekend, lay slack on the seat. I lunged over her. With my
saw his head again, coming towards us. He disappeared and was suddenly in front of me. ‘Thank God!’ The boy looked nothing like him. ‘I thought I saw Simon for a moment.’ ‘But he’s not here,’ said Xanthe. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Jeez, I don’t mean anything. I thought he was in Leopold.’ ‘Xanthe!’ called a gravelly voice. ‘Hey, Xanthe, wait up!’ We turned about, in search of its owner. ‘Here, man!’ A tall girl with straggly blonde hair emerged from behind the ‘Crazy About Cape Town’
like the most comforting thing in the world. I wanted some of her completeness, her sureness of herself. I remembered the ring I’d bought her in Greenmarket Square. ‘Remind me in the morning, I have something for you.’ There was a low murmur from my parents’ next-door room. Then came a heavy tha-donk and, ‘You bugger!’ as Dad tripped over something in the darkness. A few moments later I heard a clacker-clacker-clacker of the wooden curtain rings as Dad drew one aside. ‘It’s gone,’ we heard