Kurt Ellis’s By Any Means is a fictional account of the realities of young coloured people in South Africa. It describes the dysfunctional state of the family and society; it shows how poverty ravages a people and how that leads to the emergence of a dog-eat-dog system and the savage struggles for survival. The novel is divided into two parts, a first part titled ‘Cause’ and a second part titled ‘Consequence’.

The book is narrated in the third person, with the narrative switching between the actions of Captain and Kyle, the two major characters of the book. Kyle is seventeen and lives with his cousins – Captain, also seventeen, and Jimmy, who is sixteen – in his aunt’s house in Sydenham, Durban. Kyle, a sweet, sentimental bibliophile and footballer, has dreams of making it to the English football league. Captain is the leader of a drug-dealing gang called the Godfathers. Jimmy, the youngest of the cousins, is made to stay on the straight and narrow by Captain.

In the book’s prologue, we see the three boys being handed life lessons by their grandfather, who is angry with the boys for skipping school. He gives them what amounts to a guide to life by telling them that education is the ticket to a better life and that they should strive for it. He also tells them to protect each other, that if someone hurts one of them the other two must destroy that person. And finally, he tells them they must succeed, by any means necessary. It is from this final instruction that the book’s title is taken.

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An engaging coming of age story about love, gang violence, retribution wrapped in a debut novel from this South African author. According to him, on his now (being refurbished website – kurtellis.com) he began to write By Any Means in 1998. It was originally titled “Time to Say Goodbye”, and then changed after a year or two “Our Story”. You can still see traces of those titles in this novel. Enjoy the review but get a copy by all means..

Find out more about Kurt Ellis here