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New Edition of Claire Robertson’s Sunday Times Fiction Prize Winning Debut, The Spiral House

Benjamin Trisk, Claire Robertson and Stephen Haw

The Spiral HouseA new soft cover edition of The Spiral House by Claire Robertson is now available from Umuzi:


A grand tale of love, wig-making and the Enlightenment set in the Cape Colony.

Katrijn van der Caab, freed slave and wigmaker’s apprentice, travels with her eccentric employer from Cape Town to Vogelzang, a remote farm where a hairless girl needs their services. The year is 1794, it is the age of enlightenment, and on Vogelzang the master is conducting strange experiments in human breeding and classification. It is also here that Trijn falls in love.

Two hundred years later and a thousand miles away, Sister Vergilius, a nun at a mission hospital, wants to free herself from an austere order. It is 1961 and her life intertwines with that of a gentleman farmer – an Englishman and suspected Com­munist – who collects and studies insects and lives a solitary life. While a group of Americans arrive in a cavalcade of caravans and a new republic is about to be born, desire is unfurling slowly.

In Claire Robertson’s majestic debut novel, two stories echo across centuries to expose that which binds us and sets us free.

“It is a powerful, often darkly comic and richly rewarding work.”

- Andrew Donaldson, The Times

“This extraordinary South African novel twists together two stories, set 200 years apart.”

- Good Housekeeping magazine

“Roberston’s novel is highly original and fascinating, and a second reading is even more pleasurable”
- Jane Rosenthal – Mail & Guardian

“It is an extremely assured debut novel, and a wonderful read.”
- Suzy Brokensha – Fair Lady

About the author

Claire Robertson lives in Simon’s Town. She has spent the past 30 years as a journal­ist, reporting from South Africa, the US and USSR. She has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and television, and now works as a senior copy editor on the Sunday Times. She has won awards for her reporting and her work is carried in several anthologies. The Spiral House is her first work of fiction.

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