A Sinless Season by Damon Galgut

Evil and violence escalate at an isolated boys’ reformatory – in this heavy-breathing, verbose first novel by a South African teenager. The three new inmates at Bleda Reformatory, a seaside fortress, are thieving chums Scott Berry, Raoul Dean, and Joseph Hamilton – who are surprised to find that their new surroundings are relatively clean, calm, and cheerful. Soon, however, dark and disturbing forces are shown to be at work at Bleda. Scott finds himself mesmerized by slight, beautiful inmate Anthony Lord, who has “a face epitomizing the benign innocence of the cherub.” Meanwhile, Raoul is being seductively tormented, even raped, by a secret group of reformatory sadists. Next their pal Joseph is found bloodily dead in a tree near the beach – having been tossed off a cliff. Then, as flashbacks fill in the intense relationship among the three newcomers, there’s virtually nonstop mayhem: a dead dog; a fire; Raoul’s rough sexual encounter with the warden’s daughter – which enflames Scott’s jealousy; Raoul’s attempts to strike back at his chief tormentor; the quasisuicide of Scott’s new love-object and purity-symbol. (“And then Scott was screaming again… and he was weeping with tears that burnt out his eyes, tears so acid that they could have come from nowhere other than his heart, his heart, his goddamn bloody fucking heart, because he had just lost all that was beautiful and good, and he had nothing left, nothing, and he wanted death, he wanted to die…”) And finally, amid murky meditations on pain, death, suffering, and sexual confusion, the identity of Joseph’s Miler (no Surprise) is revealed. Portentous juvenilia – moodily promising here and there, but muddled in its adolescent stew of themes (evil, sex, death) and frequently embarrassing in its amateurish prose (“Shreds of unspoken anticipation drifted through his mental focus”).

This book is for Educational Purposes Only.

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