PositiveThe GuardianIn overt and subtle ways, the novel sets out to do important work: to explore the contours of race, class and gender and the legacy of apartheid; and it succeeds best when exploring these ideas through the delicately drawn and profoundly moving portrait it offers of a relationship between mother and daughter ... Clemmons is ambitious with her narrative form: the fragments of the novel make associative leaps from narrated scene to excerpts from academic studies, graphs of Thandi’s depression, song lyrics, and musings on subjects as diverse as the death of the photographer Kevin Carter and studies of cancer rates in communities of people of colour. But the novel is best when it simply tells the story of Thandi’s mother’s struggle with cancer, and it is here that Clemmons’s restrained prose reaches its full potential ... At times, Clemmons’s restrained prose, so powerful when the narrative lens is up close on Thandi’s mother, distances us from characters the reader longs to know more about. Yet What We Lose never strays too far from its central concern: how to live after loss, how to be an orphan, exploring lost expectations, dreams that go unrealised, relationships that seem never fully in our grasp.
C. B. George
MixedThe Guardian...an intriguing and yet imbalanced novel about live in which political instability registers as a quiet quake beneath the feet of ordinary people ... George allows us into these marriages in intimate and revealing ways, switching between perspectives. It is not always clear why we spend more time with some characters than with others, and some motivations are clearer than others but, at its best, the novel delivers just the right types of poignant and telling details that make a character live for the reader.