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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Magical, inspirational, life-affirming – notes on the 12th Book Dash, held in Johannesburg

By Anna Stroud

Photographer Urvesh Rama was there from start to finish, capturing all the action. Visit Book Dash on Facebook for more images.

 
Energy crackled in the air – the kind that makes every hair on your body jig, from your nose to your toes.

It’s a powerful sensation watching nine teams brainstorm, craft and chisel away to create nine beautiful children’s books in less than 12 hours. And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday, 27 October, as volunteers drove into the heart of Johannesburg to participate in the 12th edition of Book Dash.

The Streetlight Schools in Jeppestown was the perfect home for the Book Dash crew. The schools started in October 2013 in a small store-room in Bjala Square and their aim is to create globally competitive schools in the most underserved areas in South Africa.

In 2016, they launched the flagship Streetlight Schools: Jeppe Park where we hung our hats for the day. Judging from the drawings on the wall and the wholesome menu on the blackboard, it’s a nice, caring place to learn.

The nine teams of three – writer, illustrator and designer, plus one editor for two teams – experienced that care first hand. The school’s support staff kept us fed, hydrated and happy as we worked our way to the finish line.

“Everything we do today is a gift to the world,” said Book Dash founder Arthur Attwell at the start of the day, while his six-year-old son (and unofficial Book Dash cheerleader) beamed at us from across the room.

Book Dash originated in 2014 from the founders’ belief that each child should own 100 books by the age of five. The books are available for free under the Creative Commons Attribution licence and in all 11 official South African languages.

The Book Dash model has been replicated by various groups in and outside South Africa, and the Android app recently hit just over 100 000 downloads worldwide!

This 12th edition was made possible by the Otto Foundation Trust, which allows Book Dash to print and distribute the books.

One of the reasons why I volunteered as a Book Dash editor is the feeling of positivity and goodwill that permeates the room.

Throughout the day, the love spreads from writer to editor, designer to illustrator, facilitator to support staff, barista to photographer to videographer, and back again, like a never-ending cycle of good vibes. (Yes, we had our own barista!)

In the morning, all the writers and editors gathered in the library to read their stories aloud and to give each other feedback. I’ve never experienced such an affirming group of people, who gave each other advice on how to make their stories better and built each other up every step of the way.

It wasn’t an easy feat.

As the day progressed, illustrators’ hands started to cramp, designers started to see double, writers and editors went back and fro with coffee, snacks and kind words to motivate them to the finish line.

Then the final stretch: proofreading for wayward punctuation, frowning at fonts with their own free will, and watching the clock count down to the final minutes.

And then – sweet release – the work was done and we could bask in each other’s glory.

The teams took to the stage and the writers read their stories aloud to roaring applause. The final book caused all the tired creatives to collapse in fits of laughter: somewhere in the night, a car backfired just as one writer read the line: “What’s that noise behind the tree?”

The books will be available soon – but here’s a sneak preview of the magical titles that came to life during the day:

• I don’t want to go to sleep!
• The Great Cake Contest
• The very tired lioness
• Dance, Mihlali!
• Let’s have an inside day!
• Mali’s Friend
• Auntie Boi’s Gift
• Lions are always brave
• What’s at the park?

To experience some of the magic, follow the hashtag #BookDash for live coverage on the day or visit their website to find out how you can get involved.


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Readathon: raising superheroes through reading, in 2018

Via READ Educational Trust

In a country of great contrasts and diversity, in which the future seems filled with uncertainty, our focus should be on empowering our young people at all costs.

What better way to do so, than with helping them discover facts about their world, and most importantly, about themselves, through that one little gift we should be passing on from generation to generation; from child to child: the gift of reading.

For nearly 40 years, READ Educational Trust has focused on promoting literacy across South Africa.

This is achieved through various programmes, with Readathon being READ’s pride and joy. In conjunction with National Literacy Month, held in September, READ is excited to unveil the fifth Readathon Red Reading Box; an invaluable tool to encourage reading amongst a broad cross-section of learners.

Each Red Reading Box has had a fascinating theme, and this year’s is no different. The ‘Finding Facts’ box is visually appealing with its ‘Superpower’ look and feel. It is designed to help children discover their special skills through a fact-finding mission which begins and ends with reading. Children are taught that reading is their superpower … it’s the key to unlocking facts about the world around them, about what interests them, and about what they are good at!

 
In the 2018 Red Reading Box you’ll find a ‘Finding Facts Magazine’ – a place to find out about our ancestors, our family, our country and our culture. The ‘Superhero Journal’ is a journey of self-discovery, and ‘Everyday Heroes’ is a book filled with stories about children similar to the readers. The ‘Finding Facts Cut-Outs’ book contain instructions for all the games in the box, as well as fun cut-outs. Games include a ‘Flags of Africa’ game, ‘Word Power Playing Cards’ and more.

A young reader taking a peek inside his Red Reading Box.

 
While we’re on the topic of facts, a heartening statistic is that 12 000 children have been reached through Red Reading Boxes over the past four years. The Pizza Hut Initiative in support of the Africa Literacy Project, distributed an additional 2 500 this past year, and READ aims to distribute 3 000 new Red Reading Boxes this year.

The launch of the Box at Boepakitso Primary School in Soweto!

 
An additional Literacy Month activity saw the new Box being launched at Boepakitso Primary School in Soweto, on Friday 7 September. Children were delighted to explore the boxes and their contents, and were even more thrilled with the donation of several Red Reading Boxes for their school.

Budding bibliophiles exploring the new 2018 Red Reading Box.

 
Educators and parents are urged to purchase a Readathon Red Reading Box for only R255. Every cent of the profits is ploughed back into promoting literacy in disadvantaged communities across South Africa.

To find out more, visit www.read.org.za or purchase your Readathon Red Reading Box directly from the READ Online Shop for R255 – https://thereadshop.co.za/. Join the conversations on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/READEduTrust

Twitter: www.twitter.com/READEduTrust

Instagram: www.instagram.com/read_educational_trust


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Liberty Two Degrees partners with Read to Rise to inspire reading among the youth

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”

Liberty Two Degrees (“L2D”) has partnered with international award-winning South African poet and social philosopher Athol Williams and Read to Rise, a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities, to boost literacy and creativity this National Literacy Month.

In its commitment to making a positive contribution to the communities it operates in, L2D together with Read to Rise, will roll the initiative out across its portfolio. The initial phase will commence at L2D’s superregional assets, Sandton City and Eastgate Shopping Centre, with Liberty Midlands Mall and Liberty Promenade joining the initiative in the first quarter of 2019.

While children in the foundation phase should be reading an average of 40 books a year, children in South Africa’s poorest and most under-resourced communities are reading as little as one book a year; which limits the development of their minds and imaginations.

South Africa was ranked last out of 50 countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study, which tested the reading comprehension of learners in their fourth year of primary schooling. 78% of South African pupils at this level could not read for meaning, a further reflection of how South Africa is lagging behind other developing countries, when it comes to literacy.

L2D endeavours to provide more than 6000 young children an opportunity to own books, as a medium to nurture their love of reading, and ultimately improve their performance at school.
A challenge has been posed to schools to share the joy of reading with someone else.

For every reading book that learners and/or schools purchase, the same book will be donated to an underprivileged child. Sharing the importance of reading; learners, educators and parents can visit www.readtorise.co.za to order books, which will be delivered directly to the school. Schools that have bought the most books will win their share of R20 000 in gift vouchers from Sandton City and Eastgate Mall. (Terms and conditions apply).

In addition, L2D, through Sandton City and Eastgate Mall is treating 200 children on an excursion to both malls on the 26th and 27th September 2018, where they will be afforded a sensory experience in celebration of the book. A trio of South African actors will adapt and perform this piece in an entertaining and engaging way, involving the children as audience members to understand the core messaging of Oaky The Happy Tree, a feel good children’s book. Through role play, the children will be whisked away to an imaginary land, recreated by Sibusiso Mdondo, Schelaine Bennett and Taryn Louch.

Read to Rise excites children about reading and gives new books to learners in under-resourced communities. To date, the organisation has visited over 2 400 classes to conduct their programme and given out over 120 000 new books; and together with L2D, by turning the book into an interactive theatre piece, the aim is to ignite the children’s passion for books.


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Nal’ibali launches fourth Story Bosso competition with Yvonne Chaka Chaka!

Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – kicked off National Literacy Month (celebrated in September) – with the launch of their fourth Story Bosso competition at Uncle Tom’s Community Centre in Soweto on August 31st.

In commemoration of the 30 days dedicated to encouraging a love of reading, storytelling and writing, this annual multilingual storytelling competition invites all South Africans (storytelling has no age restriction!) to enter a story of their own, with the winning entry being published as a book, and the adroit author receiving a cash prize of R 5000.

The theme of this year’s competition is none other than ‘South African hero’s’ – be it your mother or Winnie Mandela, your father or Fatima Meer, a best buddy or Bonang – Nal’ibali is interested in reading your story on that one singular South African whom you regard as a true Hero. (Yes, with a capital ‘H’ sommer!)

Schoolchildren, Nal’ibali volunteers, FUNda Leaders, Miss Soweto, and none other than UN Goodwill Ambassador and South African icon, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, were present at this joyous occasion which included improv games, singalongs, an intro to the Sustainable Development Goals (à la Ma Yvonne), and an opportunity for the children to play Nal’ibali’s inventive Hero’s board game.

Take a look at the day in pictures, courtesy of Daniel Born:

The gees was tangible during an improv storytelling game facilitated by a FUNda leader!

 

A schoolgirl having a jol as her peers cheer her on amid the improv game.

 

Singalong time! (All together now: “We are the reading club! / The Nal’ibali Reading Club!”)

 

A demonstration of Nal’ibali’s very own Hero’s board game.

 

And enter Yvonne Chaka Chaka!

 

Suffering from a bout of post-FOMO? You need only take one look at these delighted faces to imagine yourself in the crowd as Yvonne performed her iconic ‘Umqombothi’.

 

Yvonne asked two volunteers (“one boy and one girl, please”) to join her in reading the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals out loud. (And after reiterating the importance of number four – ‘help children in your community to read’ – forthrightly stated that one shouldn’t “just dala WhatsApp.” #truth!)

 

The kids were invited to try their hand at Nal’ibali’s Hero’s board game to get those creative storytelling juices a-flowing.

 

High five to heroes and storytelling!

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Open Book Festival: 5 – 9 September

Via Open Book

Be prepared to be engaged, inspired and entertained – the programme has been announced and ticket bookings are now open for the eighth Open Book Festival. The Festival takes place from 5 to 9 September and bookings can be made at www.webtickets.co.za.

Brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, Open Book Festival offers a world-class selection of book launches, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings, performances, and more.

The festival also hosts the popular Comics Fest, #cocreatePoetica and various children’s and outreach programmes.

Venues for the event include the Fugard Theatre, District Six Homecoming Centre, the A4 Arts Foundation, and The Book Lounge in Cape Town, and are all within walking distance of one another. Selected events will also take place outside the city centre, such as at Elsies River Library and Molo Mhlaba School.

“We have put together a programme that we hope will appeal to book lovers of all interests and ages,” says Festival Director Mervyn Sloman. “The stimulating conversations that arise from the panel discussions, both during and after the event, are what make the Festival unique. We are always grateful to the authors who are so generous with their time and to the audience members for their willingness to openly engage in debate.

“Thanks to the support of our partners such as the Canada Council of the Arts, the French Institute of South Africa, the Swedish Embassy, the University of Stellenbosch and the Embassy of Argentina, we are able to bring you leading international authors such as Guy Delisle (Hostage),graphic artist duo Icinori, Jonas Bonnier (The Helicopter Heist), Nicole Dennis Benn (Here Comes the Sun) and Mariana Enriquez (Things We Lost in the Fire). Other international guests will include authors such as Aminatta Forna, Lesley Arimah, graphic novelist Mariko Tamaki and Adam Smyer, whose debut novel Knucklehead is a refreshingly honest, fierce and intelligent read. All this, in addition to the more than 100 incredible South African authors that are joining our programme.”

In association with #cocreateSA and the Dutch Consulate General, #cocreatePOETICA hosts a varied programme of readings, performances, discussions and workshops showcasing poetry and the spoken word. Experience the work of Dutch writer, performer and theatre director Babs Gons and musician and songwriter Ivan Words, alongside the cream of South African talent and celebrated spoken word organisations such as InZync, Lingua Franca, Grounding Sessions and Rioters in Session.

Open Book Festival once again teams up with the African Centre for Cities to present a number of events exploring urban issues. Inspired by the collection Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth, a series of Feminism Is talks will interrogate ideas of feminism, gender, patriarchy, sexual health and ownership of the body.

The Festival has become known for its focus on political and societal topics, and events will include discussions around the 2019 elections, a look at if our laws hinder or help us and the future of the media.

There’s also a strong recurring theme in the programme around loss, memory and personal transitions. Various events will give us a window into the authors’ worlds of writing and creating characters dealing with death and capturing the author’s own personal changes in their lives.

The fun-filled Writersports is a firm fixture on the Festival calendar and this year challenges writers with their Cringe Factor: Behind every success are 100 embarrassing failures!

The popular Comics Fest takes place on 8 and 9 September with the return of the Monster Battle Draw off, live drawings workshops, discussions and demonstrations, as well as a host of exciting exhibitors in the Comics Fest Marketplace. Don’t miss Dusanka Stojakovic of New Africa Books talking about what she is looking for in order to publish a comic book.

Younger visitors will feel welcomed at the Festival with a range of exciting activities including storytime at Central Library, Origami Demo Sessions and a workshop for teens to Create Your Own Character.

Longstanding partners Leopard’s Leap Wines will be hosting their wonderful #WordsforWine. Bring a pre-loved or new book to exchange for a glass of Leopard’s Leap wine. Books will be donated the Open Book Library Project and other charities.They’ll also be announcing the winner of their innovative #MessageonaBottle competition.

Open Book Festival has established itself as one of the most innovative literature festivals in South Africa. It has twice been shortlisted for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards. Last year, nearly 10 000 people attended the festival’s record 140 events, with ticket sales from previous years surpassed in the first two days. Open Book Festival is committed to creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors. The festival strives to instill a love of reading among young attendees, with the programme designed to create conversations among festival goers long after the event.

The 2018 programme is now available at www.openbookfestival.co.za.


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Deadline for 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize extended

Via Short Story Day Africa

The deadline for the 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize anthology, themed ‘Hotel Africa’, has been extended.

Entrants have until October 31st to submit their stories.

Visit their website for more information on the theme and entry details!


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Jozi Book Fair launch of Keorapetse Kgositsile’s Homesoil in my Blood (2 September)

Via Jozi Book Fair

Xarra Books in collaboration with Jozi Book Fair will be hosting a fitting tribute to the late Keorapetse Kgositsile, a poet, author and political activist, affectionately known as Bra Willie. His latest book, Homesoil In My Blood, proudly published by Xarra Books, is a trilogy of poems. This book showcases a selection of poems from his remarkable cutting-edge poetry collection and features a foreword by Mandla Langa.

The launch will take place on the 02nd of September 2018 at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown Johannesburg from 16:00 to 16:50pm.

Kgositsile was born in 1938, and spent 29 years in exile, primarily in the United States. He made his return to South Africa in 1990 and was named South Africa’s Poet Laureate in 2006. In 2008, he was awarded the national Order of Ikhamanga Silver for ‘excellent achievements in the field of literature and using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world’.

Kgositsile’s poetry includes “Spirits Unchained” (1969), “For Melba” (1970), “My Name Is Afrika” (1971), “The Present Is a Dangerous Place to Live” (1974), “Places and Bloodstains” (1975), “When the Clouds Clear” (1990), “If I Could Sing” (2002) and “This Way I Salute You” (2004).

Kgositsile was one of the first to bridge the gap between African poetry and Black poetry in the United States and he was an influential member of the African National Congress.


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Launch: Skin we are in by Sindiwe Magona and Nina G. Jablonski (1 September)

When we meet someone, one of the things we notice is the colour of their skin. But what can someone’s skin colour tell us about them? Despite what some people say, your skin means very little! Inside we’re all the same.

Join Njabulo, Aisha, Tim, Chris and Roshni as they discover why humans have different skins, and how people’s thinking about skin colour has changed throughout history. Skin we are in is a celebration of the glorious human rainbow, both in South Africa and beyond.

One of South Africa’s best-selling authors, Sindiwe Magona, has teamed up with well-known American anthropologist, Nina G. Jablonski, and award-winning illustrator Lynn Fellman to create a much-needed book about race and skin colour – for children. Magona has written a story of five friends as they explore and discuss the skin they are in. The scientific narrative, written by Jablonski, expands and supports the conversation topics generated by the children’s adventure.

Event Details


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“One would be remiss to sleep on this collection” – Russell Grant reviews Megan Ross’s Milk Fever

It would be easy to write about Megan Ross’s Milk Fever as strictly a collection of poems about young motherhood, and while yes, this is the case, and a very good collection about young motherhood it is, I feel there is much more to this collection than its subject matter.

Not more in the sense that its subject matter is somehow trivial or incidental, but more in the sense that, technically, Ross is a very good poet, and just what makes her poems good should not be something that we ignore.

Milk Fever is published by uHlanga Press, a name which has been doing remarkable things in the South African poetry scene of late. They are responsible for bringing to the world Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, a book which is breaking records in the South African poetry publishing game. Alongside Putuma, uHlanga have an impressive roster of poets including Genna Gardini, Douglas Reid Skinner, Francine Simone and Nick Mulgrew. Amongst these bright lights of the South African poetry scene, Megan Ross’s flame does not dim. Her work is mature and confident, despite this being her debut collection, and her growth as a poet is something we should look on with optimism.

It is almost a backhanded compliment in some ways to write of a woman poet that her work is Plathian. Whilst Sylvia Plath was a brilliant writer of verse, it can be a cliched and reductive comparison.

I do think Ross is Plathian, not because she is a woman writing about the deeply personal with a great degree of angst (which she is), but rather because the two both have a similar gift for effective, hard hitting imagery, and a knack for making the personal universal; for connecting the things that happen to us as individuals with the great big cogs of history, science, culture and language.

Ross’s opening poem, “Object” sets the scene:

“At night when it is the city’s turn to light the sky,
She dreams of creation splitting open under teacher’s pen,
Ink-spliced parts dictated by biology, geography, mathematics, cosmology.
(as if time really is an endpoint a corporeal destination as if seas really do part)”

It is a testament to the immense confidence that Ross has as a young writer to open with a poem that is so confrontational.

In it Ross lays down a challenge both to society in general (“even without sons we still are…”), and to language and poetry in particular: “punctuate us if you dare”. It reads like the voice of a woman claiming space for herself in a space which is yet to fully understand or accept her. In it the poem itself becomes a metaphor for an inadequate world in which, despite its inadequacies, one still wants to live.

Ross is trying to write herself both into and out of language and history. This ironic tension gives the poem its power, and lays down the themes of futility intermingled with hope that dominates this collection.

The groundwork for the collection’s focal imagery and symbolism is laid in the first few pages. Imagery and symbolism which is, arguably, exploded as it progresses. The middle part of this book is kaleidoscopic, as Ross fiddles with (nay, ratchets) form and meaning, diction and syntax, until the very fabric of the universe starts to come apart at the seams. For instance:

“Your milk comes apart   so it can   be held
Like soft frangipanis   inking   your skin”

Ross’s allusions and associations are strange, yet they are held together by an imagistic vocabulary that develops as the book proceeds. Images of dryness, wetness, bodily fluids, flowers, blades and a host more are developed and re-used and re-contextualised as the book goes on. The effect is surrealist stream of consciousness that somehow retains a sense of central logic.

These images and themes are used as vehicles to confront a range of topics, of which young motherhood is but one. Old relationships, platonic and otherwise, familial bonds, love, death, self-harm… these are all dealt with in this book, and it would be a crime to ignore all of these things in favour of the book’s supposed selling point, that is, a book about young motherhood.

There is a great deal to love about the middle portion of this book but also a great deal to miss if one is not careful.

Ross’s diction can be deceptively simple, and to truly do it justice would require several readings. Here, in the belly, Ross masterfully weaves a web of interconnected images and allusions which connect like strings on a conspiracy theorist’s pin board. It would take far too much time to break it all down here.

One simply has to dive in and trust that one will emerge unscathed on the other side. Or not. I don’t think unscathed is what you want to be when you emerge at the end of this collection, and I doubt that anyone actually would.

Ross manages to take us a fair distance from the shore in this collection, and the effect can be disconcerting. However, she does a good job of reeling us back in whilst doing minimal damage to the integrity of our psyches.

Whilst the middle of the book has a quality of formic dissonance to it, the end resolves like a melody settling on the first note of the scale. There are some truly memorable lines here, like, “In the drying there is life”, and “I know genesis has its place”, both from subsections of “Love in the Year of Bleeding”.

Both go a long way to heal the wounds inflicted by the beginning and middle. Dryness is synonymous with death in most of the book; the dryness of ageing, of the vast salt plains of youth we mistook for flavour but which ultimately drain us of our vitality; but here she offers us hope.

The same goes for “I know genesis has its place”, a deceptively simple, almost tautological line that alludes to the genesis of the bible, but also to genesis as a kind of change; change which can be violent but ultimately necessary and productive.

Admittedly, sometimes, Ross’s lines can get caught up in themselves, and some may find in this collection the kind of baffling deliberate opaqueness that makes much modernist and post-modernist poetry inaccessible. There are certainly instances of lines falling flat, or syntactic structures that repeat themselves just once too often, breaking the spell (“refrigerator eggs stained to teeth and bone” is one such syntactic device).

Overall, however, I think one would be remiss to sleep on this collection. Dive in, get lost, find yourself, and don’t for a second try to punctuate any of it.

Book details


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Book Bites: 5 August

Published in the Sunday Times

The Girl in the Moon ***
Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, R315

Born to a meth addict, Angela is raped by her mother’s drugged-up boyfriends in her trailer home. But she transcends the abuse by focusing on getting revenge on the men. The drugs her mother took during her pregnancy created in Angela the ability to identify killers just by looking into their eyes – and she can actually see them committing the crimes. When her grandparents are shot dead, she moves into their remote cabin in the mountains where she lives off the grid. Her life’s work is to dispatch every rapist killer who walks into the bar where she works. A fast-paced read filled with blood and gore. Gabriella Beks @gabrikwa

Death is Not Enough ****
Karen Rose, Headline, R295

Gwyn Weaver survived an attempted murder and is as tough as they come.She’s always had romantic feelings towards friend and business partner Thomas Thorne and feels it’s now time to act on them. Thomas feels the same but as he is about to make a move, he wakes up to find himself covered in blood next to a dead body. It’s the start of a vendetta against him and the reader is taken into a web of intrigue. It’s a long read with many names and much background to keep straight, but stay the distance and you’ll be rewarded with a solid thriller that cements Rose as a force to be reckoned with in the genre. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Ill Will **
Michael Stewart, HarperCollins, R285

One of the great mysteries in Wuthering Heights is Heathcliff’s three-year absence when he got his wealth. In Ill Will, in those missing years, Heathcliff returns to Liverpool. While travelling, he meets Emily, and the pair make their way together, and seek answers to Heathcliff’s questions. It is a mammoth task to add to a narrative penned over 150 years ago. This book is jarring, much like Heathcliff himself, and has a contemporary voice filled with anger and violence. Heathcliff was unpolished, Stewart’s style is a contrast from the gentle darkness created by Brontë, making the two narratives incompatible. Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

Book details


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