Critical Context

This National Book Award-winning novel follows the concerns of Rush’s earlier collection of stories, Whites (1986), and continues the tradition of American utopian novels such as Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888), Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance (1852), and William Dean Howells’s A Traveler from Altruria (1894), but it does it with a feminist slant and with more attention paid to the love story than to the social mechanics of the Tsau colony. Mating also includes thoughtful commentary on the role of socialist politics in African countries, and Rush joins other white novelists of Africa such as Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee, and André Brink in their fictional dialogues on colonialism and its effects on southern Africa.

A diary kept by the narrator provides background about Tsau and other concerns. The narrative flows well, but there are episodes that could be cut to good effect. The diction is demanding, and writers and other persons (such as Father Coughlin, William Empson, and E. M. Cioran, for example) are referred to without explanation. The effect is a mild pomposity that will annoy many readers but that dedicated autodidacts may appreciate.