The world of haute couture and high business is the setting for Lesley Lokko’s latest novel An Absolute Deception. At the heart of the novel is Anneliese Zander de Saint Phalle, talented and celebrated queen of fashion, designer and visionary. She has surrounded herself with people who have helped her on her journey to greatness, and who help keep her there, including her daughter Callan, her adopted daughter Tara, and her longest friend Bruno. But at the heart of Anneliese is nothing but mystery. For instance, nobody knows where Anneliese came from, as she first appeared at a Textiles college in Berlin but seemed to have no ties, no roots, no past. The only person who knows her from those days is Bruno, and he has never asked for her history, nor has she ever told him. Callan, too, is a mystery, as there has never been a father figure in her life. Her parentage is a mystery as much as the rest of Anneliese’s past, and again – nobody questions this.
In a somewhat confusing whirlwind of places and times, there are also key characters in Norway and in South Africa – characters who seem to be linked by the flimsiest of threads. Lindi is half-Namibian, living with her adoptive parents in Norway, and always believed her (deceased) mother was black and her father was a landowning white in Windhoek during apartheid. She has never looked back to find out more, content with her upbringing in Oslo. Ree Hertz, on the other hand, is a proud Namibian, although exiled with his parents who were fierce activists for South African independence. Together, these two represent a transnational world-view, and reflect it in their chosen careers of diplomat and politician (Lindi) and architect to the world (Ree).
When Anneliese calls for Ree to design her newest store, a spark of something – more than mere attraction – flares between them. As their relationship becomes more complex, Anneliese finds herself thinking back to the past that she had rejected, and buried long ago. Things are never simple in Lesley Lokko’s novels and you can just feel that there will be more twists and turns to come. In fact you would not be disappointed as the threads binding Anneliese to everyone gradually become exposed until it is not so much a wonder of how she could have been so connected, but how they remained hidden so long. A glamorous, detailed and involving tale, this will make you want to know more about Namibia, Norway, and architecture, if nothing else.
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