Publisher: Headline Review (19 July 2012)
How far do you go to rescue your child?
Paul van Niekirk, a successful white South African is held up at gun-point when driving his new BMW. He’s dragged out and his abductor drives off in his car. It’s an everyday car jacking. Except his nine-month old daughter is in the back seat.
As a pacifist, Paul is reluctant to carry a gun, but he descends into the heart of darkness of his country determined to find his child. He uncovers a criminal gang involved in people trafficking and discovers in himself a capacity for violence.
When the trail goes cold, he is on the verge of losing everything but finds redemption in the most unlikely circumstances. Moving from the enclaves of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs to the throbbing heart of Soweto’s informal settlements, Paul is forced to confront the changing political and social landscape of the new South Africa, questioning his own values as his perfect life crumbles around him.
Held Up begins one second after the hijack. The reader is introduced to how life is - violence and mistrust are common experiences. One minute after the hijack, Paul is reflecting on how difficult Chantal’s conception was and how he felt at her birth. One hour afterwards he tells his wife, Claire (having waited for the police and then related everything at the station). From this moment on, the reader is caught up in the pain and grief of Paul’s journey – the changes experienced as a direct result as well as trying to find a place to belong … until a resolution, eleven years later.
You do need full concentration and a good level of vocabulary. At times, I did find the words getting in the way of the flow of my reading. I did enjoy the way the author varied the sentence structure.
The story itself is very powerful and allows the reader a glimpse into another culture. The emotional aspect is portrayed really well. The reader finds themselves caught up in the deep and dark abyss and learning how to live with a wound that is so raw. We do find out the reason why it was not just Paul’s white 318i BMW that was the attraction. Myths are still prevalent in parts of the world.
As an aside, I’ve worked with a child at school who lived in South Africa. His family chose to move to the UK. His stories of armed guards at the locked gate of his home and the shootings were brought to life for me by the descriptions in Held Up.
Held Up is not a light read. It’s not one of those books you can take off your shelf at random. Personally I think you need to be in the right frame of mind to be able to do the story justice.
*Note: There is swearing which some readers may find offensive*
I highly recommend you listen to Christopher Radmann talking about Held Up:
I read Held Up as part of the Real Readers programme (link on side bar).
Held Up is available to purchase:
And most good book stores
About the Author
Christopher Radmann is from South Africa, but has lived in the UK for the last twelve years. He is currently Head of Sixth Form and Head of English at a school in Hampshire, where he lives with his wife and two children. Based loosely on personal experience and that of his friends and family, Held Up is his first novel.