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BREATH – Cape (2008)

"Breath" is set in a country recovering from a brutal and divisive civil war between north and south. The war may be over but people's memories are long and hatreds are slow to fade. A teenage boy, Jamie, is knocked off his bike and dies in a city street. His father, Geoff Andrews, manager of the main hospital, is asked if he will allow one of Jamie's lungs to be removed and flown north for a transplant. He agrees, and the mercy mission begins: six hours to get the lung out of one body and into another.As the night unfolds, and the plane travels through storms across the war-ravaged country and over the border, we see the drama from three different perspectives: Andrews, grieving for the son he perhaps never knew well enough - this one single death overwhelming, even after the deaths of so many; the lung's recipient, Baras, an old man fighting for breath, and life - a northerner with blood on his hands; and in the turbulent sky between them, Jude, the young pilot, who is closest to Jamie - or at least to his breath, his spirit, his voice.

A novel about violence and vengeance, and what must take their place, "Breath" is a moving and timely examination of the fractures of war and grief and the long struggle towards peace and reconciliation.

"Inventive in its form and often profound in its poetry, this gripping story is also a meditation on the difficulty of forgiveness in wartime."


"Symmons Roberts is already a poet of note, and this, his second novel, is discernibly a poet’s book. Short and introspective, it stays in the mind and echoes."


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