By: Beverley Dias
Close To Home is the captivating debut novel by South African author, Cayleigh Bright who is Head Copywriter for Superbalist.com and contributing Books Editor for GQ magazine. Bright holds an Honours Degree in English literature from UCT and wrote her first offering while undertaking her Masters in Creative Writing.
Close To Home is a dark, compelling story about a group of privileged UCT students whose indulgent lifestyle is interrupted by the mysterious and suspicious death of a friend and fellow student. Clarence’s untimely death changes the dynamics in a world where the characters’ lives revolve around lectures, partying, daytime drinking and sexual intrigue. Secrets begin to surface and a series of strange and chilling events unfold in a way which alters the lives of all involved as well as exposes a chasm in the once closely-knit group. The initial preoccupation with the death by some of the girls appears to be the result of boredom, but it later appears that they genuinely suspect that Clarence’s blood could be on the hands of one of their own.
This coming-of-age novel grapples with the period of disorientation between childhood and adulthood. It also gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of these affluent child-adults who are attempting to find themselves as well as balancing their wealth, privilege and freedom with responsibility. The end result, however, is a group of disconnected people who wallow in excess.
Close To Home is narrated in first person from the perspective of eleven characters. Although I couldn’t quite identify a protagonist, Faye stood out for me for her courage and overly confident demeanour, darkened somewhat by her air of superiority as well as being above criticism and disregard for consequence. I also found that the narrators were unreliable as their views were both naive and narcissistic, each telling their version of events from their individual comfort zones.
This novel gets my nod of approval and I found that I could relate to some aspects of the story and characters (by no means am I admitting that I know what a life of excess might be like). The book turns its own pages and the end, although it reveals Clarence’s murderer, left me wanting more.
Close To Home is an outstanding effort by Bright and I eagerly anticipate her next offering which I hope will be in the not-too-distant future.