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15 South African Debut Novels from 2015

15 South African Debut Novels from 2015

With new books from Ivan Vladislavić, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Finuala Dowling, Christopher Hope, among others, there’s no denying some great South African fiction was produced in 2015 from established names. However, it’s the debut authors that ignite our hopes for the future of South African literature.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered together the notable South African first novels published this year.

Take a look:

Bev RycroftA Slim, Green SilenceA Slim, Green Silence by Beverly Rycroft
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Rycroft’s poetry collection, Missing, won the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize in 2012, and in 2011 she was awarded second prize in the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Competition.

Set in the small Eastern Cape town of Scheeperstown, A Slim, Green Silence describes a dead woman’s return to her home to fulfil an unknown purpose.

Andrew MillerDub StepsDub Steps by Andrew Miller
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Miller’s debut novel won the 2015 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award in manuscript form, and was subsequently published by Jacana Media.

Dub Steps is set in Johannesburg in an alternative future where most of the inhabitants have disappeared, suddenly, inexplicably, and the remaining handful have to find each other and start again. Dinaane judge Fred Khumalo called it “a dystopian novel that gave me hope”.

Miller is a freelance writer, public speaker and performance poet based in Cape Town.

nullGlowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson
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Gibson is an academic, writer and visual artist based at the University of the Western Cape, who has lived in the United Kingdom, Africa, the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

Glowfly Dance travels across three continents, narrated by a child, focusing on issues of migration, identity, women and child abuse, and the inability of authorities to protect vulnerable people.

The manuscript was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and the Virginia Prize for Fiction.

nullHunger Eats a ManHunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole
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Sithole grew up in Hlathikhulu near Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal, studied at Wits University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and currently teaches English at the University of Zululand.

Hunger Eats a Man is the story of Father Gumede, also known as Priest, who loses his job as a farmhand and, enraged, decided that he will have to earn a living at whatever cost.

Sithole’s first novel highlights the desperation of many South Africans, but his tale is told with a deft touch, humour and wit.

Nakhane TourePiggy Boy's BluesPiggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure
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Touré is a SAMA award-winning musician for his debut album Brave Confusion, his latest release being The Laughing Son. His first book, Piggy Boy’s Blues, centres on a young man’s return to Alice, the town of his birth, and the decline of a Xhosa royal family.

Piggy Boy’s Blues was the first novel to be released by BlackBird Books, Jacana Media’s new imprint. Pumla Dineo Gqola, Professor of African Literature at Wits University, calls it a “tour de force”.

Sally AndrewRecipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria MysteryRecipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew
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Recipes for Love and Murder was a global success before it had even gone to print. Last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair set off a bidding war for the manuscript, with rights being sold to three countries (UK, ANZ and SA) with a preempt in Canada as well. By 2016, the book will be available in 17 countries – and counting!

The book is a murder mystery with a difference, the lead character being Tannie Maria, an agony aunt from the Little Karoo whose life takes a sinister turn. Alexander McCall Smith calls it: “Vivid, amusing and immensely enjoyable … a triumph.”

nullSweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi
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Chigumadzi is a young and upcoming media executive, and the founder and editor of Vanguard Magazine, a platform for young black women. She is a 2015 Ruth First Fellow at Wits University, and created waves with her inaugural lecture earlier this year.

Sweet Medicine, published by BlackBird Books, follows the life of a young woman, Tsitsi, in 2008 Harare, at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes, but the author insists she steers well clear of “poverty porn”.

Dalena TheronThe Paper HouseThe Paper House by Dalena Theron
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Born in KwaZulu-Natal, Theron is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees in journalism and social anthropology from the University of Pretoria. She writes short stories in her spare time, and currently lives in Cape Town.

The Paper House involves 22-year-old Anna and her unconventional family: she lives with two eccentric dads in a small town in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The novel explores the different dynamics of family and asks how you can remain a supportive daughter and still live your own life.

The Paper House is also available in Afrikaans as Huisies van papier.

Fred StrydomThe RaftThe Raft by Fred Strydom
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The Raft was published by Umuzi in South Africa at the beginning of April, but the manuscript was the subject of a multi-party auction just ahead of the London Book Fair, with United States publisher SkyHorse Publishing ultimately securing the rights, with publishing editor Cory Allyn described the novel as “Lost meets Life of Pi meets The Road“. The cover for the North American edition was recently revealed.

The Raft is set in a world where humankind has lost its memory, and for the novel’s main character, Kayle Jenner, all that is left of his past are the haunting visions of a boy he believes to be his son, leading him to embark on a voyage across a broken world to find the boy.

Jacqui l'AngeThe Seed ThiefThe Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange
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Durban-born L’Ange is an award winning journalist and book reviewer, with an MA in Creative Writing from UCT, and her debut novel was eagerly anticipated.

The Seed Thief is a striking and richly imagined novel, moving from Table Mountain to the heart of Afro-Brazilian spiritualism, and the playlist that inspired L’Ange is well worth a listen.

At the launch of the novel, Henrietta Rose-Innes said: “It’s an eco-thriller about sea piracy and the preservation of our natural heritage; it’s also a personal story about a woman who is pursued by her own demons …”

John HuntThe Space Between the Space BetweenThe Space Between the Space Between by John Hunt
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Hunt is the co-founder of legendary advertising company TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, which worked closely on Nelson Mandela’s first ANC election campaign. In 2003 he became the creative director of TBWA Worldwide. He is the author of The Art of the Idea: And How It Can Change Your Life, but The Space Between the Space Between is his debut novel.

Set in the turbulence of South Africa right now, the novel tells the story of a young man trying to stay afloat as he’s assaulted by life’s cross-currents.

Alex van TonderThis One TimeThis One Time by Alex van Tonder
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Van Tonder is a Cape Town-based copywriter and marketer, was well known for her satirical blogs, including My Branded Life and Cape Town Girl. She was named one of South Africa’s most influential women on Twitter (@alex_vantonder) in 2011 by Memeburn.

Her debut novel is about Jacob Lynch, a New York blogger who creates an outrageous and offensive alter-ago called Brodie Lomax, and “a bit of a social media Frankenstein story”, according to the author.

nullTracerTracer by Rob Boffard
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Boffard was born in Johannesburg in 1984 and studied journalism at Rhodes University. He has written for The Guardian, Wired Magazine and the BBC, and io9, and has worked on corporate copy for Google and Microsoft. He also has a rap album to his name, African, and a successful second career as a sound engineer.

His debut is a science fiction thriller, which Sarah Lotz describes as: “Fast, exhilarating and unforgettable, and once you start it you can’t stop.”

Orbit Books bought the rights to a trilogy of novels, with Jonathan Ball distributing the books locally.

ZP DalaWhat About MeeraWhat About Meera by ZP Dala
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Dala is a Durban-based freelance writer and psychologist at a school for autistic children. Her short stories has been nominated for many awards, while What About Meera was recently announced as the winner of the inaugural Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Award: Debut Category and has been longlisted for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature.

The launch of Dala’s novel was put on hold earlier this year after she was targeted in a religiously motivated attack at the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban, but the author has bounced back and recently appeared at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town.

Rehana RossouwWhat Will People SayWhat Will People Say by Rehana Rossouw
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Rossouw was born in Cape Town, but currently works as a journalist in “self-imposed exile” in Johannesburg.

What Will People Say earned Rossouw a shortlisting for this year’s Mbokodo Awards, and she was also recently longlisted for the Etisalat Prize.

The novel tells the story of a family living in Hanover Park in 1986, during the height of the struggle era, and formed part of her MA in Creative Writing at Wits.

Do you have any other debut novels in mind? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter


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