Kitchen Boy is an unusual literary take on the life of a former rugby Springbok and war hero. The novel opens with the death of the old hero and moves to his funeral service, the first of several braided narratives… Dipping into the recollections of his gathered friends, family and incidental figures, she builds up a compound picture of J J Kitching that spans his youth, war service and life afterwards. She also uses the service to orchestrate a variety of effects that feed into the rich structure and scope of the novel.
There is broad comedy in figures such as the pompous bishop and the lugubrious undertaker . There are tensions that unfold within the Kitching family … There is the pathos of the aging MOTHs who have come to honour their old comrade-in-arms… The recollections of the ancient warriors present a moving picture of Kitching’s war and the effects of trauma on his POW companions’ life choices after the war… I was impressed by the broad sweep of the novel, and by its clever marshalling of numerous perspectives to create the portrait of a compromised hero. In fact, I was moved by the dignified pain of the old soldiers and the way they move to resolve their differences. Kitchen Boy is a novel with heart.