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Green Lion I think I simply didn't jive with the author's writing style The prose often felt too self conscious and laborious to me'As if his body wanted to lose the weight of the family's heavy meals his bowels stirred too He pulled down his pyjamas and crouched down taking a s right there the warm sweet stink of it rising up between his thighs A kind of honest; a bodily truth you shouldn't tell Nothing to wipe with He used a tuft of grass roots unwilling to give too scratchy Dirty' p 216More than that the lion of the title seemed abandoned in favour of the human drama'Con wished he knew about lions their tracks their traces their faeces their kills their calls Why hadn't he taken care to learn about Sekhmet the lioness all those long days in the office in front of the computer or wandering around the empty cages? Why hadn't he thought how she might live if she were free?' p 258This passage arrives near the end of the book and sort of sums up its problems The narrator forgot about the lion and it felt like the author did too I wanted the focus to be on the lion Instead I was left with a narrator with whose anthropocentric concerns I simply didn't relate Review copy courtesy of Gallic Books via wwwnudgecom my thoughts on that site in due courseI read my first of this author’s novels last year Nineveh set in her home city of Cape Town and dealing with humans’ relationship with wildlife in that case swarms of mysterious insects invading a housing development site that defy efforts to remove them This latest novel complements it in looking at that relationship from the opposite view focusing on projects to protect wild animalsCon returns to Cape Town after years away and is at a loose end His mother has just died and he knows practically no one in the city apart from his girlfriend the glamorous and wealthy performance artist Elyse An unexpected cry for help from the family of his estranged schoolfriend Mark laid up in hospital after an encounter with a lion in the course of his work at the city wildlife park entices Con to take over his volunteer role with the animals The wildlife facility is attempting to repopulate the mountain area with animals once indigenous to the Cape until they were hunted to near extinction The headline programme is breeding the black maned lion but only one female survives and the existence of the whole project is in jeopardy Funding is a problem What really stood out for me in this story was how the author showed that as animals become rarer two factions emerge On the one hand people begin to romanticise wild animals especially the large predators not only wanting to save them but to get close to them as though they represented our own lost wild nature Her portrayal of the sheer physicality of the lioness is sublime Striking too is how Con begins to react to her navigating the world and by his sense of smell the longer he spends working alongside herOn the other hand endangered species become the ultimate hunting trophies often for the same people who fund the breeding programmes In a slightly skewed version of the reality of the city a fence has been erected around the perimeter of the mountains keeping animals in and people out most of the time The wilderness within the fence takes on a mystiue of menace and there are some beautiful descriptions of its landscape A recurring image throughout is gold rare and precious but glinting with dangerSuperbly well written along with a poignant human story in Con’s and Mark’s early lives and the reason for their estrangement she gives us many interesting strands linking bereavement extinction of species conservation representations of animals in theatre and dance As well as a terrific personal read I think this would be ideal group material Perhaps read in conjunction with her earlier book Nineveh “Of course you’re never expecting the lion are you Like something coming up in the rear view mirror Much closer than it appears”When a lion at a breeding park mauls an old school friend of his Con steps in as the keeper of Sekhmet the last remaining black maned lioness in the world In a Cape Town where fences keep people and wildlife apart park officials and investors fret about their flagship big cat project And while Con grows steadily bonded to his enigmatic charge a cult of animal lovers with obscure alchemical aims seeks to claim the lioness as their own When she escapes Sekhmet engulfs the city’s imagination stirring up rumours of terror and magic In Con’s uest to track her down he must enter the wilderness of a cordoned off Table Mountain – and his own dark history Henrietta Rose Innes’s novel Green Lion gleams with stylistic precision as myth and reality fuse in a story that sparks off the page Green Lion delivers everything we’ve come to expect from Henrietta Rose Innes especially originality and exuisite writing with every sentence beautifully balanced It’s a seductive idea attempting to breed back extinct animals – the black maned Cape lion the uagga Con Marais has returned to a Cape Town familiar and yet altered with the mountain fenced off Sekhmet the lioness takes him – and us – into a place where instinct comes to the fore as she awakens a longing for something older deeper and wilder – for something buried so deep we no longer know how to summon it or what to name itCon has his own ghosts associated with the mountain and when the lioness escapes his need to find her takes him onto the mountain againMystical and real at the same time Green Lion is an exuisite novel that affected me deeply and I read it twice several months apart Written with clear gorgeous prose the novel is set in my home city Cape Town but in a world where there is little contact with nature and the characters long for a connection with animals Con has drifted through life and when he is asked by the mother of an old school friend Mark to collect his belongings after an accident at work he steps into Mark's shoes and becomes the carer of a black maned lioness Green Lion mourns humanity's drift away from nature and presents a world in which our connection with it is merely symbolic then asks us what it will mean for our souls when we can no longer access something greater than ourselves Green Lion by Henrietta Rose Innes is one of those books that languished for far too long on my TBR pile and I'm so glad I've taken the time to rectify this unfortunate state of affairs This story is told entirely from the point of view of Con recently returned from working as a security guard in UK museums and trying to find employmentThe novel fluidly leaps between past to present as we learn of Con's troubled friendship with Mark and the dysfunctional relationship Con shares with his late mother His situation with his girlfriend Elyse is on shaky ground too and their uneual relationship becomes of an issue as the story unfolds Con himself is remote passive – he tends to immersion in his outsider status incapable of ever truly connecting with the people around him despite his desire to do so His absent father haunts the periphery of his life while Con himself gives the appearance of envying his friend Mark who has it all when it comes to family and wealth I'd hazard to say that Con's fascination with Mark may even have deeper roots – that he isn't willing to admit even to himself Mark is everything that Con isn't to the point where he feels that association with that which he desires most may create a form of sympathetic magic to enrich his own lifeGreen Lion is richly textured flavoured with evocative alchemical imagery and it's also a story that is hard to pin down – providing one hallucinatory dreamlike scene after the other in a Cape Town that exists as a might have been It is also a tale as unreliable as its narrator who throughout the chapters is stalked by the idea of the predator rather than a flesh and blood lion that we can see and trap And in the end it's the lion that exists as placeholder a menacing inescapable fate that awaits Con that he projects his fears and desires onto Sekhmet the lion in the zoo where he worksThis is also a story about identity – seen in how Con to a degree is a parasite who attempts to assume aspects of self that don't belong to him in an effort to establish an authentic identity In the end he is mired in the very illusions he seeks settling for the facsimile than the real that is forever outside of his graspI suspect also that this is the kind of story that is so laden with metaphor that you can pick it apart on every read through and find further nuances I need to go back and give this one another shot at some point In the meantime I remain in awe of Henrietta's writing Many thanks to Goodreads and Gallic for my free copy of Green LionThis was a well written original and thought provoking novel that confronts our ever diminishing relationship with the natural world After all the only encounters with wild animals most of us have is through TV documentaries or the occasional visit to zooGreen Lion is well written with a style that is to me reminiscent of Paul AusterOffbeat with engaging characters this one is well worth a go A haunting read that I can't stop thinking about Characters that stay with you and are uncomfortably resonant and familiar and broken A sadness about the near future and what it holds for human and animal in general and Table Mountain in particular Memory myth but also real and harrowing beautiful illusive cruel and devastating 35 rounded upAnother great novel from Henrietta Rose Innes Similarly to her other novel Nineveh this is set in South Africa and the plot revolves around the nature and animals of the local setting Where Nineveh was about a pest relocator in the urban wilderness of Cape Town Green Lion follows Con a local guy who unintentionally lands himself a position looking after the lion in the local zoo after his friend is attacked by one of the lions and is hospitalised I won't go on too much about the plot but I will say that I love Rose Innes's writing why aren't people talking about this author? This book has a great sense of place and makes the reader contemplate humans and their relationship with the natural world and whether our attempts to control it are ever justified I found this really hard to put down recommended Green Lion by Henrietta Rose Innes opens with Con a non descript listless young man tasked with picking up the belongings of his childhood friend Mark who is recovering in hospital after being mauled by one of the two black maned lions at the zoo The pair of lions were part of a breeding program to save black maned lions from extinction The male was put down after the accident leaving Sekhmet the lioness as the lone survivorReluctantly Con picks up Mark’s belongings from the zoo and returns them to his mother He intends to visit Mark in the hospital but he never does Instead he puts on Mark’s uniform adopts his role as a zoo volunteer and assumes responsibility for taking care of SekhmetThe novel unfolds by alternating between Con’s past and present Con reveals himself to be selfish inconsiderate of others emotionally impotent deceptive and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions even when he has put others at serious risk Denied knowledge of his father his childhood consists of living with a single dysfunctional mother who clutters her home with other people’s discarded junk and has a revolving door of temporary boyfriends in an attempt to fill the gaping void in her life As an adult Con is unemployed lacks ambition and spends his days in his girlfriend’s apartment rummaging through her belongings in her absence He abdicates responsibility for his life and even relies on her to select his outfits He is a passive spectator to his own life In his effort to assume an authentic identity he is chameleon like taking on the personality of those around himBut things change when he volunteers at the zoo As the narrative progresses Con becomes increasingly fascinated by Sekhmet He hears her smells her and can feel her presence long before he sees her His senses come acutely alive Electrical currents charge through his emotions as he experiences an atavistic excitement at being in the presence of such a fierce wild untamed physical power His desire to get close to her is mingled with terror Animals play a prominent role in the novel Key rings and postcards of animals are stuffed in bags or fall out of pockets Animal masks are worn in play productions Some animals are stuffed and mounted on walls; some are alive and interact with humans And there are those whose presence can only be sensed behind a fenced mountain reserve designated as a conservation area The tension between humans who live on one side of the fence and the animals who live on the other side is palpable But the boundaries are fluid The interactions are troubled Animals and humans encroach on each other’s designated terrains with tragic conseuencesThe novel explores the ways in which humans try to fill a vacancy in their lives by connecting with what is wild and crackles with energy Mark walks into the lion’s den Mark’s father kills wild animals and stuffs them The members of the Green Lion club derive their excitement by touching wild animals And Con forms a bond with Sekhmet that is stronger than any bond he forms with a human The novel suggests that as we encroach on the habitat of wild animals and threaten their very existence we lose something vital in ourselves Entrance into their habitat is described in mythic primordial terms evoking a time when life sizzled with a frenetic energy Our desire for connection is manifested in our longing to be close to and touch wild animals as if by touching them we can somehow revive the deeply buried wildness in our own natures Instead however we are reduced to seeing them behind glass windows or metal barriers We wear animal masks and mimic their movements We carry their images in postcards and on key chains And we stuff and mount their bodies proudly displaying them as our trophies A thought provoking read and well worth the effort