By: Beverley Dias
Let me start by clarifying that I have never been a fan of the crime and ‘whodunit’ genre, so I needed convincing to read this novel. It is an acquired taste, but I am pleased to announce that my palate is ready. Will I be rushing out to stock up on Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock? No, but I am looking forward to checking out more of Smith’s work.
I loved this book and even after I completed reading it, its vivid imagery refused to vacate my mind. The characters are authentic and I felt like they were people I know. Smith’s characters are well developed and complex, with subtle nuances which give the reader a broader glimpse into who they really are. I didn’t like the main characters and did not feel any sympathy for them. The insipid and spineless Michael Lane who relinquishes every major decision to his wife, with no control of the goings on in his household; his conniving wife, Beverley (my namesake, unfortunately), who is the mastermind behind the blood-smearing and intimidation campaigns; as well as their spoilt bully of a son, Chris didn’t garner my affection. Denise, Louise and Lyndall had my sympathy, with even the dark, gory Achmat managing to pull at something in me, despite his gruesome ways. Sacrifices studies the reactions of the characters to different situations which they find themselves in and takes some unexpected twists and turns. As far as characters go, Louise gets my thumbs up for the underdog who gets her own and, in the end, no matter how wrong, manages to get the justice which the system doesn’t afford people from the wrong side of the track.
The book is about injustice and left me feeling helpless in parts. Smith examines the price of life and exhibits how a social and political climate can smear the hands of innocents (a poor Black family) with blood and allow the guilty (wealthy White family) to walk away scott-free. A gut-wrenching murder has been committed by the son of the wealthy Lanes, but by Beverley’s design and manipulation, the less fortunate, drug addict son of their domestic worker is framed and takes the fall for the crime. This sets in motion a bloody spiral of revenge and retribution which threatens to destroy everything and everyone that Michael holds dear. Throughout the book, there is a lurking doom and darkness which blankets all the characters, although they try in their own ways to find the light. It, however, feels futile, since it seems that they are all destined to a similar fate.
Sacrifices is a brutal and exhausting novel and I suppose this is what makes it such a compelling read. It is tragic and triumphant in equal doses and takes the reader on a dizzying back-and-forth trip between elitist privilege and extreme poverty. I can see this book being made into a box office hit which I would be first in line to watch.