“It took some convincing to get me to read Norman Rush. I expected his first novel, Mating, to be an obvious cross between Saul Bellow and a Victorian romance. It took me a long time to realize this: that’s not such a bad combination.”
The Bellow half of Mating gives the novel its propulsive drive. But it’s the kind of drive coming from what the characters want, not from any kind of external plot point. The unnamed protagonist, a woman whose graduate anthropology thesis is an incomplete failure, finds herself wafting along at the edges of Botswana’s upper crust white society—at a time when nearby South Africa was still practicing Apartheid. She wants a lover. She goes through several of them until she comes across her ultimate challenge, Nelson Denoon. . .