North Facing

£8.99 Buy now Recommend

‘This beautiful, moving novel is vast in how much it recounts and how deeply it makes us feel’ — Edmund White

A novel of awakening and atonement, this exquisitely realised story revisits a seminal boyhood moment as it plays out — with unexpected and sinister consequences — against the backdrop of political upheaval in South Africa.

For one long, intense week in October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought with it an East-West stand-off and the possibility of nuclear holocaust. On the other side of the globe, in Pretoria, a group of schoolboys scan the horizon for signs that the world is about to end.

There is political tension here too, and the power struggles and cruelties of the boys mirror the corruption of a deeply divided country. Paul Harvey – sensitive, isolated, and desperate to fit in at school despite his English heritage – will do whatever is needed to please the class ringleader, Andre du Toit.

Now in his sixties and living abroad, Paul is drawn back to South Africa to confront the unexpected and chilling consequences of this seminal boyhood moment – and the part he unwittingly played in the drama that unfolded.

Shena Mackay

13 June 2017

Tony Peake’s compelling and haunting new novel makes the political personal. Here, the other country which is the past is Apartheid South Africa, recalled with aching hindsight by an Englishman who spent his childhood there. History is happening outside the privileged confines of a white boys’ boarding school – the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rise of the ANC – within, the corruption of the wider society is played out in microcosm in the power struggles and cruelties of damaged little rich boys, until, with chilling inevitability, they lead to an almost inadvertent betrayal which has terrible consequences and resonances. 

North Facing is elegiac in its depiction of things half-understood, telling in its detail – an African comb becomes totemic in memory – and is a gracefully achieved work of art made more powerful by its quiet anger and understatement.

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