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Marli Roode’s Call It Dog Launched at Love Books in Melville

Marli Roode

Marli Roode Call It DogMarli Roode’s debut book, Call It Dog, has already received critical acclaim. It has been longlisted for the 2013 University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize and The Guardian has stated that her novel “tells a story that is disquieting and compelling, announcing an astute and unusually gifted observer”.

The story is about Jo, a young woman who returns to South Africa after living in the UK for ten years. Her estranged Afrikaans father, Nico, is accused of murdering a black man during the apartheid era. He asks her for help to prove his innocence. Jo and Nico set off on a road trip to try and prove his innocence. However, the more that Jo begins to know her father, the more she starts to wonder whether there is more he is not telling her.

Roode explained that her initial drive towards writing the book had to do with the idea of living your life between two different countries. What becomes home when you spend your childhood in one country but your adult life in another? Roode herself was born in South Africa but left 10 years ago to move to England. She studied at Manchester University where she enrolled in writing courses.

Roode mentioned that it was difficult writing about South Africa from elsewhere. She moved when she was 17 and she doesn’t “know what it’s like to live in South Africa as an adult” but also “was not raised in the UK as a child”. This made her want to write a story about someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to live in South Africa anymore. The book touches on whether justice and truth are more important than family loyalty and what it’s like to feel like a stranger in the land of your birth.

The idea for the book came in 2008 when xenophobic violence broke out in South Africa. Watching it from the outside, Roode realised that South Africa had many more stories to tell – our story does not end after 1994. Roode mentioned feeling a strong sense of responsibility when she wrote the novel. Living on the outside she had to conduct a lot of research about the country in its current state. She jokingly described having to read up on South African slang words because many of them had not been in existence when she had lived here.

Roode stated that her next book will be set in the UK. However, she felt that Call It Dog had to be set in South Africa. The character Nico wouldn’t have been realistic anywhere else. The imagery of nature and animals that runs throughout the book is also suited to the South African landscape. She also mentioned that there is a “sense that anything can happen here”.

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