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Book Bites: 26 April 2015

A Lion on the Landing A Lion on the Landing: Memories of a South African Youth
Elsa Joubert: translated by Irene Wainwright (Hemel & See Boeke)
****
Book buff
Elsa Joubert’s third-person, unsentimental memoir offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of South Africa’s most honest and interesting writers. We see the young, pre-World War 2 Elsa, part of the rigid patriarchal society of Afrikaans-speaking Paarl, slowly coming to question what have been presented to her as incontrovertible truths. The book has obviously been translated with the American market in view – the rather odd glossary even finds it necessary to tell us that a pavement is a sidewalk and a rubber is an eraser – but it is an important and engaging addition to South African literary biography.
- Margaret von Klemperer

The Great Leader and the Fighter PilotThe Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot
Blaine Harden (Viking)
****
Book buff
It’s always interesting to get both sides of a story. While the author exposes the tyranny (and surprising ineptitude) of Kim Il-sun’s regime during the Korean War, he also pulls no punches in describing the carnage and loss of civilian lives at the hands of the US army. No Kum Sok, once the youngest jet fighter in the war, personifies the disillusionment of a people in their “Great Leader”, but also in the propaganda machine that drives the US’ reputation in these conflicts. Harden ultimately delivers a supersonic ride.
- Vuyo Mzini @vuyomzini

Night HeronNight Heron
Adam Brookes (Sphere)
***
Book thrill
Peanut, a prisoner in a remote Chinese labour camp, escapes after 20 years’ incarceration for killing a soldier during the Tiananmen uprising. He flees across the desert to Beijing, but the Chinese capital has changed – Peanut, or Night Heron as he was known to MI6, must find a way to avoid the intense surveillance on the city streets. He reaches out to journalist Philip Mangan to hook him up again with British intelligence, in order to trade the state secrets he has been sitting on for two decades. A fast-paced, elegantly written spy-thriller.
- Gabriella Bekes @gabrikwa

Crash Crash & Burn
Lisa Gardner (Headline)
****
Book thrill
Another nail-biter from Gardner, who masterfully leads the reader through sharp twists as she carefully shifts her characters’ identities. Nicky Frank crashes her car. Her first thoughts are to save her daughter Vero. But after hours of searching, the police are told by her husband Thomas that Vero is just a figment of Nicky’s imagination. Sergeant Wyatt Foster senses that something is fishy about Thomas’s story and it’s one hell of a race to get to the bottom of it.
- Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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