Five Seats – Leonie Vorster
Five Seats is a psychological account of the brutal impact of violence on the ordinary lives of an unhappy wife, an imposing businesswoman, a God-fearing apostate, a fierce temptress and a skinny little girl who live in South Africa. As the five victims each struggle with unspeakable truths, their vulnerability and unravelling become inevitable. When they are about to give up on life, the girl-child follows a hidden passage into a basement where the four women are waiting to go on a quest in search of what they had lost.
The story is a combination of the unique characteristics of five protagonists and their harsh realities with magical manifestations of their internal lives. Parts of the novel lean towards the style of realistic fiction, whereas other parts are written in the style of personal reflection or memoir. The style parallels the nature of the five main characters: Ancient Woman, Madonna and Little Girl are the more primal characters, whereas Working Girl and Virago are more reflective, but also more detached, observing themselves from a distance.
The protagonists challenge the reader to explore why and how their characters develop, as they survive violent events and struggle with the impact. They inevitably fall apart, realising that they will not survive if they cannot overcome, and come together. Elements of magic run throughout the book, and fuse in the end. The characters’ transformations are both real-world and symbolic, rendering their development relevant to anyone reading the book.
Five Seats is a literary commentary on dogmatism, hypocrisy, privilege, and the devastating impact of various forms of violence. Finally, the story also conveys hope and the belief that every person’s journey, no matter how easy or hard, has meaning, is worthwhile, and ‘magically’ happens exactly as it should.