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Word on the Street: New Novelists to Look Out For in 2015

Published in the Sunday Times

Alex van Tonder

Known for her satirical blogs, such as My Branded Life and Cape Town Girl, Alex van Tonder’s debut novel This One Time (Pan Macmillan) is due out in May.

It features an unlikeable multimillionaire trying to recover from writer’s block in an Alaskan hunting lodge. His mistake is opening the door to a pretty girl harbouring a Misery persona.

Lauren Beukes’s shout: “Alex van Tonder has a straight razor on the pulse of pop culture. Scathing, witty and incisive.”

To The Black Women We All KnewKholofelo Maenetsha

Maenetsha — whose reviewer’s byline will be familiar to readers of the Sunday Times — has published three romances under the pseudonym Kholo Matsha. Originally from Limpopo, Maenetsha moved with her family to Soweto, where her non-romance debut, To the Black Women We All Knew (Modjaji Books, on shelves now), is set.

The story follows four close friends, one of whom is about to get married. All four live in different parts of Soweto and each embodies the characteristics of their place.

ZP Dala

Dala, a noted short story writer, works as a psychologist at a school for autistic children in Durban. In her novel What About Meera? (Umuzi, out in March), she follows the sage advice to “write what you know”.

The protagonist flees a toxic marriage and starts a new life working at a school for autistic children in Dublin, but finds her past interfering with everything. This dark comedy evokes the streets of both the Irish capital and the Indian community of Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal.

Joyce Kotzè

Kotzè grew up in Namibia and now lives in Cape Town. Her grandfathers fought on opposite sides in the Anglo-Boer War, supplying the theme of her debut novel, The Runaway Horses (Jonathan Ball), out next month.

A slice of historical fiction, it tells the story of two cousins, a Boer and a Brit, whose lives are inexorably altered by the political mayhem surrounding the war.

John Hunt

The founder of advertising agency TBWA Hunt Lascaris has written television dramas, a non-fiction book about the power of ideas and a play about censorship during apartheid. His debut novel, The Space Between the Space Between (Umuzi, out next month), is the offbeat tale of a man with good intentions, to whom bad things happen.

Trauma counselling helps him deal with his relationships and work out why he carries a hat, a shoe and a painting everywhere he goes.
 
 
 
 
 
Ameera Patel

Best known for her role as Dr Chetty in the TV soap Generations, Patel is also an award-winning playwright. Her first novel, The Spaces Between (Modjaji Books) — not be confused with John Hunt’s similarly titled novel above — is part thriller and part family drama.

It explores the relationship between a domestic worker in suburban Joburg and her troubled young employer, who has disappeared.

The ReactiveMasande Ntshanga

Ntshanga’s award-winning short story “The Space” (not to be confused with either of the preceding similar titles) sparked the idea for his novel, The Reactive (Umuzi).

Set in the Eastern Cape in the early 2000s, it is about an HIV-positive young man trying to come to terms with his own situation and the death of his brother. Despite themes of denialism and the listlessness of forgotten, post-apartheid youths, there is a thread of redemption and hope.

MissingBeverly Ryroft

Capetonian Beverly Rycroft’s poetry collection Missing won the 2012 Ingrid Jonker prize.
Her debut novel, A Slim Green Silence (Umuzi), is the life-affirming story of the aptly named Constance, who floats above her home town of Scheepersdorp after her death from cancer. She keeps watch over her loved ones while trying to work out why she is still there.
 
 
 
 

Anne Woodborne

Mother of the artist Judy Woodborne, Anne’s work has been widely published in women’s magazines and her short stories can be found in various anthologies. Cry of the Hangkaka (Modjaji Books) is the story of a divorcee seeking to flee with her daughter from post-World War II South Africa.

Rushing into the arms of a Scotsman who works on Nigeria’s tin mines does not provide the best refuge from colonial dictatorship.

Fred Strydom

Johannesburg-based Strydom’s dystopian novel The Raft (Umuzi) is due for release in April. It is set in a world where people have lost their memories. The hero is a man trying to find a boy he believes to be his son while solving the mystery of global human amnesia.

Dying in New YorkWhite WahalaEkow Duker

New on the fiction scene last year, Duker released two novels to great acclaim — White Wahala and Dying in New York, both published by Pan Macmillan. His own tale is an interesting one — he has lived in many places as an oilfield engineer and now calls Johannesburg home.

His third book, set in 2024, is a futuristic look at a fallible ruling party and a country falling apart.

Look out for it late this year.

 
 
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