Book review: The Heart is the Size of a Fist

The Heart is the Size of a Fist

PP Fourie

Kwela Books

Review: Simonéh de Bruin

The subject matter PP Fourie tackles in his debut novel, The Heart is the Size of a Fist, is something many of us are familiar with, yet find difficult to acknowledge – domestic violence and its tentacled hold and ripples on our lives and close relationships.

The Heart is the Size of a Fist is the story of a boy’s complicated relationship with his violent, but charismatic, alcoholic father.

The narration of Paul’s childhood trauma is conveyed through splintered accounts from times past and times present.

His relationship with his father is complex and the scenes of violence are too raw not to have some of it rooted in reality.

In a magazine interview, author Pieter Paul (PP) Fourie described The Heart is the Size of a Fist as “faction” – a mixture of fact and fiction in which real events are used as a basis for a fictional narrative.

The title of the book is also a striking form of imagery and fittingly demonstrates how violence in a family setting is tied up with so many conflicting and often perplexing emotions.

“Yes, it was a horror, but it was a horror I knew and understood,” Paul observes during one of his father’s violent episodes.

The turning point for the boy and his mother is when his father tries to crush his mother’s skull with a metal pipe and then takes a shard of glass, from the glass doors he has smashed in, to cut her throat.

The 9-year-old Paul stands paralysed as he watches this scene, screaming an often-spoken prayer, “Jesus, kill him! Jesus, please kill him”.

It is only the protective instincts of the family’s ageing Rottweiler, Bruni, that stops the night spiralling into more of a tragic and irrevocable end.

Paul and his mother escape his father’s clutches, but the trauma of his childhood echoes far into adulthood, impacting his personal and professional life.

The Heart is the Size of a Fist is a finely attuned piece of writing.

It is moving and it is discomfiting – in my book, that is what good writing should aim to do.