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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Under the Tongue

Yvonne Vera

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To purchase Under the Tongue

Title: Under the Tongue
Author: Yvonne Vera
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996
Length: 113 pages
Availability: in Without a Name and Under the Tongue - US
in Without a Name and Under the Tongue - Canada

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Our Assessment:

C : a few decent parts, but tries much too hard to be 'poetic'

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Africa Today . Summer/2002 Shane Graham
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/3/2002 Hillary Frey

  From the Reviews:
  • "But as Zhizha talks to us, less and less is revealed. The language that Vera has given her is nearly impossible to understand." - Hillary Frey, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Under the Tongue begins:

     A tongue which no longer lives, no longer weeps. It is buried beneath rock.
     My tongue is a river. I touch my tongue in search of places of my growing.
       If any of that makes sense to you, or if you like the lyrical qualities of these sentences, then maybe Under the Tongue is a book for you.
       If these sentences baffle you, then you'll probably find Under the Tongue a tough slog.

       The novel is told in alternating chapters. Half are narrated by heavy-tongued Zhizha. Someone close to her did something bad to her which has shut her up, but slowly (very slowly) she puts together her story.
       The other chapters, presented in the third person, tell the story of her parents, Runyararo and Muroyiwa, and how they wind up the way they wind up (meeting fairly tragic ends).
       Zhizha's grandmother also plays an important role in all of this.
       Vera doesn't present her story very straightforwardly -- perhaps because the story is meant to be too painful to address directly. She writes in a manner that is apparently meant to be evocative, though arguably it is anything but. There are some striking bits, but for the most part this is book that tries too hard to read (or sound) poetic (or some such thing), while failing to convey much of anything.

       Vera's style may be an acquired taste. This is the fourth of her books we've read and we still haven't gotten the hang of it.

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Under the Tongue: Reviews: Yvonne Vera: Other books by Yvonne Vera under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of books from and relating to Africa

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About the Author:

       Yvonne Vera was born in 1964 in Bulawayo, in what is now Zimbabwe, and died in 2005. She studied at York University, Toronto, and is the author of several acclaimed novels.

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