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White Lightning by Justin Cartwright

White Lightning

Books for the Boys   Literary Fiction   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A tragic, deeply moving tale narrated by a failed film director who develops a relationship with a baboon. Beautifully written and multi-layered, you’ve just got to read this and all his books. He is a wonderful author.

Comparison: André Brink, J M Coetzee, William Boyd.

If you like Justin Cartwright you might also like to read books by Andre Brink, Martin Amis and Chinua Achebe.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


White Lightning by Justin Cartwright

A motorcycle messenger goes into a small park in London to paint the words `White Lightning` on the tank of his bike. This is the beginning of an extraordinary novel. It is told over the space of a few months, and in these few months one man`s whole life - his failures, his successes, his longing for peace and fulfilment, his loves and his tragedies - are recounted. These memories include his film Suzi Crispin, Night Nurse, and - the darkest moment - the death of his son, which has haunted him.

He inherits a small amount of money and buys a rundown farm in South Africa, where he dreams of creating an Arcadia. On the farm is a captive baboon, Piet, who becomes startlingly involved in his new life. He also has a love affair with a local woman, and becomes hauntingly involved with an African family of squatters. All the while the narrator contemplates his own life back in England and so the novel is also a sharp commentary on what Englishness means.

This is a novel about the human enterprise. It is surprising, tender, funny and utterly original.


'Brilliant, dazzling, unsettling; subtle and haunting; complex and multi-layered; deeply moving...It's astonishing that he still isn't spoken of in the same breath as Amis and McEwan: he ought to be.' - Suzi Feay, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

'Wry, achingly true and profound without being sententious, it's a moving and bleakly funny look at life's hellish demands and occasional moments of happiness' - William Boyd, Books of the Year, GUARDIAN

'Hauntingly brilliant...It is the best novel I have read this year.' Mick Brown, DAILY TELEGRAPH

About the Author

Justin Cartwright

Justin Cartwright was born in South Africa and educated in America and at Oxford University. His novel LEADING THE CHEERS won the Whitbread Book Award for 1998. Justin Cartwright lives in north London with his wife and two sons.

Photograph © Mark Gerson

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Book Info

Publication date

28th December 2006


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Books for the Boys
Literary Fiction



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