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Four must reads for this week: Book Bites, 11 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

UnpresidentedUnpresidented
Paige Nick (N&B Books)
****
Book fun
Novelist, columnist and advertising copywriter, Paige Nick demonstrates her unique talent for taking the pulse of present-day state captured and junk status South Africa with her hilarious and subversive new novel, Unpresidented.
Matthew Stone is a disgraced journalist and the only work he can get is as memoir ghostwriter for ex-President Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza. Muza is a character perfectly suited to Nick’s witty and sometimes scathing satire; masterful with alternative truths and able to get himself out of prison on medical parole for an infected toenail. But post-incarcerated life is not all smooth sailing: Muza is either disrespected or ignored by the only two of his numerous wives who have stuck around, his Homestead is falling apart and he faces eviction for unpaid rates and taxes.
Readers will find many familiar and notorious characters popping up as Muza tries to trick his old acquaintances with a lottery scheme, but the sole person willing to invest seems to be Muza’s old pal Robert, using Zim-dollars. To add to his woes, Muza has been abandoned by the Guppi brothers who have now moved the hub of their business to Dubai and are not taking his calls. In Unpresidented the madcap state of South African political affairs makes satirical, hilarious and terrifying sense. – Andrew Salomon

You Said ForeverYou Said Forever
Susan Lewis (Century)
****
Book fling
Susan Lewis is a master storyteller and her latest novel will keep you up just to finish it. Five years ago, Charlotte Goodman kidnapped Chloe, an abused child, and smuggled her to New Zealand. Charlotte was caught and later found innocent in a trial that saw her win the hearts of Brits as chilling details of Chloe’s circumstances were revealed. Now, things have changed. Chloe is a “problem child” and throws tantrums, is involved in creepy chatroom conversations and physically abuses her siblings. Will Charlotte keep her promise and look after Chloe forever? It’s a thought-provoking tale that will make you question your own morals. – Jessica Levitt @JessLevitt

The Returning TideThe Returning Tide
Liz Fenwick (Orion Books)
***
Book hug
World War II novels are flooding the market. Fenwick’s inspiration, however, did not come from history books, but from her mother-in-law. She was a telegraphist who endured the horror of listening to men’s last words, all through Morse code. It’s a tale of twin sisters, one assigned to be a telegraphist, the other a driver. A sisterly bond, full of love and support, is demonstrated through a series of letters. That is, until the day of betrayal. The harm from that one mistake infects generation after generation, on two separate continents, despite closed mouths and buried secrets. But love has a way of burrowing through the smallest of cracks. Set in Cornwall, the story charms while twisting heartstrings. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Edith Edith & Oliver
Michele Forbes (W&N)
***
Book fling
One has to be in the mood for a somewhat overly written doomed romance, and Forbes doesn’t make this easier to swallow with this being set in a dank place – early 1900s in Belfast. Oliver is a magician – an illusionist. His miserable childhood fosters a foolishly driven ambition to become world famous. Edith, whose story is, sadly, secondary to Oliver’s, is a pianist – playing in the music halls and theatres. Then they meet, fall in love, have children and live the most miserable lives ever. Dark and nightmarish – it makes you feel good about living in the world today. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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