Affluence, affairs and ageing - Eva Mazza on writing Sex, Lies and Stellenbosch
Do the rich have more to lose in a divorce? Why do the moneyed remain in their marriages despite indiscretions, fights, rifts, boredom and even abuse? Are golden shackles the most difficult to unshackle?
I had been sitting on Sex, Lies and Stellenbosch for some time when I saw an open invitation by Jacana for writers’ submissions to pitch manuscripts face-to-face. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment: Steinhoff’s shares had plummeted, making headlines. As a result, Stellenbosch, which happened to be the backdrop of my novel, had been thrust into the spotlight.
Similar to the Greek community in Joburg in which I was raised, small towns like Stellenbosch avoid scandals at all costs — yet scandals are part of everyday life. They surface daily in dorps and villages and when they do they seem so much bigger than they would elsewhere.
Inspired by the transgressions of married men who brazenly conduct affairs while wives, friends and colleagues turn a blind eye, I was intrigued by the marital angst of the affluent — and that is why I chose Stellenbosch. It is no secret that many influential South Africans reside here. What’s more, I had no problem recreating the atmosphere of this beautiful town, having lived here for over 20 years.
Further questions evolved as the outline of the plot progressed; do the rich have more to lose in a divorce? Why do the moneyed remain in their marriages despite indiscretions, fights, rifts, boredom and even abuse? Are golden shackles the most difficult to unshackle? A well-heeled friend once said: “Money, status and lifestyle count and perhaps the thought of losing these incentives is more daunting than accepting spousal transgressions and turning a blind eye to a lifelong lie.”
Nearing 50 and overcoming my mid-life crisis, I wondered whether age made people more determined to “stick it out”.
And so the book’s protagonist evolved. On the cusp of 50, facing an empty nest and with nothing to occupy her but girlfriends, book club and Zumba classes, Jen stumbles upon her husband in a compromising position with his wine rep. She is thrown into turmoil as to what she should do, especially since she has bought into the notion that she has no choice; that she has nowhere to go.
This story is relatable as the issues are universal despite its setting. Melinda Ferguson, my publisher, cheekily added in the blurb that the novel is “written as fiction to protect the innocent”, so if any of the characters in the book resemble friends, colleagues or you, sorry.
- Sex, Lies and Stellenbosch by Eva Mazza is published by MFBooks, R130