We Are Not Such Things

My review of Justine van der Leun's extraordinary new book, We Are Not Such Things, in Newsday. Van der Leun reexamines (boy, does she) the murder of American Amy Biehl in 1993. A clip from the review:

The story intrigued van der Leun when she relocated to Cape Town in 2011 for her South African fiance’s work. With time on her hands — she had previously published “a light travel memoir to nobody’s notice” — van der Leun, another young white American woman, began to dig into the narrative as told. The more she dug, the more it fell apart. Was the mob that attacked Biehl loyal to Mandela’s African National Congress or the more militant Pan African Congress? Did those who confessed to and were imprisoned for the murder commit it? Why didn’t police take Biehl to the hospital? What did the ANC gain from Biehl’s martyrdom? What did the killers get from their perhaps false confessions? Van der Leun wanted to, in her words, “find the Big Truth about the Amy Biehl story.” According to Easy — charming, tenderhearted, often hilarious, sometimes drunk — “the truth is not anymore existing for years and years.”

Oh, but it is, if you commit to listening to people’s stories. Van der Leun listens, for years...

Read the rest here.