BOOK REVIEW: Finuala Dowling brings wit, warmth and nuance to campus politics
Author’s fifth novel captures the tragicomic absurdities of universities grappling with change
Acclaimed poet and novelist Finuala Dowling’s employment at the University of Cape Town over the last several tumultuous years has provided fertile material for her captivating fifth work of fiction, Okay, Okay, Okay.
At its core are two shocking deaths. Siphokazi Nonjinge, a young student at the fictional University of Adamastor (very obviously inspired by UCT) is driven, through exploitation and abuse, to commit suicide. Then there is the academic Miriam Landor, who dies, at 30, of a heart attack — her symptoms having been dismissed by her ambitious, career-focused husband, Simon. While the circumstances differ widely, these are both women who died scandalously young as a result of being ignored by those who should’ve listened and offered support. And both deaths have far-reaching effects. Siphokazi’s will ignite campus-wide protests (reminiscent of those that gripped UCT in 2015 and 2016) while Miriam’s will force a reckoning between the daughter she left behind, Cecily, an...