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Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going - Book Review

I normally read books quite quickly, but this one took me a long while to get through.

I had to take frequent breaks, because Iswung between despair and anger as I turned the pages of the book. The story itself is masterfully written, and Tracy’s use of language, imagery and metaphor immediately pulls you into the story world And the irony is that that is precisely what makes the book so difficult to read, because the story is so tragic and harrowing.

Tracy Going was “the golden girl of television” in South Africa in the late 1990s. She was arguably the best-known female television presenter and radio show host at the time. However, behind the glitz and glamour, was a life that was full of pain, torture, misery, and abuse.

She weaves between the story of how she grew up, and how she came into such a tragic situation later on in her life. And what unites the two narrative threads is the physical abuse meted out by men. During her years growing up in an area of South Africa called Brits, she witnessed her father’s descent into alcoholism and the resulting physical abuse against her mother. This physical abuse had a marked effect on her personality. I got the sense that she grew up feeling a lot of fear, feeling insecure, and never quite knowing whether or not it would be her next. And I think this is what led her later on in life, to end up with a man who was quite similar to her father. He also turned out to be a brutal, abusive man. She tells the story of how she met him, fell in love with him, and let him into her life. But their whirlwind romance quickly turned into a nightmare. She did not know that the man was a drug addict. And when she discovered, it was already too late. He was too far deep into her life.

He tries to kill her when they’re driving back from a party, trashes her living room and garage and nearly abandons her at a far-away holiday resort where they had gone away for a reconciliatory weekend. She managed to obtain a restraining order against him, but that did not stop him. Eventually things came to a head when he, under the pretext of seeking forgiveness, he worked his way into her apartment, and practically beat her to a pulp. This sparked the storm of publicity. All of a sudden, Tracy finds herself in court, on the front pages of the news, and practically jobless. The second half of the book tells the story of how she went through the entire justice system trying to bring this man to pay for his crimes.

I think the book gives a good snapshot of a woman who suffered abuse all through her life. I am particularly looking forward to the stage-play adaptation, which will be in April this year in Johannesburg. If you can stomach anger, despair and outrage, read this book. You will be glad that you did.

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