Third International Book of the Month Selection Is 'A Blade of Grass' by Lewis Desoto

South African Born Author Wrestles with Legacy of

Imperialism and Receives International Praise

Nov 21, 2003, 00:00 ET from Bookspan

    NEW YORK, Nov. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- What is the price of imperialism?
 Recognizing the crucial role that literature plays in answering this question,
 "A Blade of Grass" by South African-born writer, Lewis DeSoto, has been
 selected as the next International Book of the Month by the DirectGroup
 division of Bertelsmann AG, co-owners of Bookspan's Book-of-the-Month Club.
     "A Blade of Grass," DeSoto's acclaimed debut novel, is a story of race,
 friendship, and betrayal set against the beleaguered African landscape.  It is
 the story of two women -- one white, one black -- and their interlinked
 destinies at the time of a brutal territorial war. "A Blade of Grass" was
 published by HarperCollins Canada and under the Ecco imprint in the United
     The International Book of the Month is the first-ever global program of
 the DirectGroup to provide club members with one pre-selected title that has
 been chosen by the editors of clubs in the United States, Europe, Asia and
     Brigitte Weeks, Senior Vice President and Editorial Director of Bookspan,
 said, "'A Blade of Grass' is the quintessential International Book of the
 Month selection.  It is distinguished by its subject matter, its prose, and
 its absorbing narrative.  The fact that it is a first novel makes it all the
 more impressive."
     "Only every few years does a first novel come along as assured and
 beautifully executed as 'A Blade of Grass.' This is an outstanding literary
 debut that invokes a landscape and a relationship with the power of a seasoned
 novelist," said Daniel Halpern, Senior Vice President and Editorial Director
 at Ecco. "'A Blade of Grass' is a mesmerizing novel that casts an immediate
 spell over readers. When I read the first page, I was hooked," adds colleague
 Phyllis Bruce, Publisher, Phyllis Bruce Books, HarperCollins Canada.
     DirectGroup division of Bertelsmann owns and operates book and music clubs
 worldwide. Several times annually, many of the book clubs in the DirectGroup
 division agree on the selection of a single title to be offered as a Main or
 Featured Selection to club members.
     "A Blade of Grass" will be published in France, the United Kingdom, the
 United States, Canada, Holland, Italy, Germany, and Poland, among others. The
 novel will be published in the native language of each country
     "A Blade of Grass" begins with Marit, a young bride who comes to the
 borderlands to farm with her new husband.  When Marit's husband is suddenly
 killed, she has no one to turn to except her housemaid, Tembi.  Both women are
 without family and estranged from their communities.  An alliance -- and even
 a friendship -- begins to develop.  Tragically, Marit finds herself shunned by
 other whites who reject her kinship with Tembi, and Joshua, the overseer of
 the farm, has his own plans for the land, plans that could be linked to the
 long-brewing native rebellion.
     As civil war seeps across the border, Marit and Tembi are left to fend for
 themselves amid the desolation of the surrounding veldt, an uphill battle that
 will threaten their very lives, and pit them not only against Afrikaaners and
 blacks, but each other.
     Markus Wilhelm, Bookspan's Chief Executive Officer, said, "DeSoto treats
 race and colonialism with the courage and unflinching honesty that such timely
 issues require.  As an artist, his ability to convey the psychological and
 emotional complexities of a certain time and place is astounding.  'A Blade of
 Grass' is a novel with universal resonance-truly worthy of the International
 Book of the Month distinction."
     Ewald Walgenbach, DirectGroup Chief Executive Officer and member of the
 executive board of Bertelsmann, said, "DirectGroup Bertelsmann continues
 working with the publishing industry to discover and promote new and talented
 authors. We provide the authors the chance to reach a potential community of
 35 million readers in our international clubs. This is unique in the book
 industry. The International Book of the Month program is strategically sound
 since it combines the greatest strength of the book clubs -- editorial
 discovery as well as our relationships with members and authors."
     Lewis DeSoto, who was born in Bloemfontain, South Africa to a family that
 arrived from Europe in the 18th century, said, "these (characters) arose out
 of the depths of my memory, out of emotions that had been lodged in my soul,
 still there after countless years, after departure, after exile, after the
 creation of another life in another country.  The tragedy that Marit carried
 with her and the yearning that was on Tembi's face were in my heart too."
     The previous International Book of the Month selections were "No Second
 Chance" by Harlan Coben and "A Faint Cold Fear" by Karin Slaughter.
     About DirectGroup Bertelsmann
     DirectGroup Bertelsmann integrates Bertelsmann's global media direct-to-
 customer businesses. Approximately 55 million customer relationships secure
 DirectGroup's position among the largest enterprises in media commerce.
 Cornerstone of this success are Book Clubs in 20 countries with brands such as
 Book-of-the-Month Club, France Loisurs, De Club and Circulo de Lectores. Since
 August 2002, DirectGroup is headed by Ewald Walgenbach. DirectGroup is a
 division of Bertelsmann AG.

SOURCE Bookspan