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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Black to the future: Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Alert! The Abantu Book Festival has revealed a sneak peek of writers and performing artists who will be leading the inaugural event.

The Abantu Book Festival will be happening in Soweto, 6-10 December 2016.

The impressive lineup includes Angela Makholwa, Bheki Peterson, Bongani Madondo, Bontle Senne, Chika Unigwe, Dikeledi Deekay Sibanda, Duduzile Zamantungwa Mabaso, Don Mattera, Elinor Sisulu, Eusebius McKaiser, Florence Masebe, Fred Khumalo, Gcina Mhlope, HJ Golakai, James Murua, Khadija Patel, Khaya Dlanga, Khosi Xaba, Koleka Putuma, Lebo Mashile, Lesego Rampolokeng, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Malaika wa Azania, Mongane Wally Serote, Natalia Molebatsi, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Niq Mhlongo, NoViolet Bulawayo, Nozizwe Jele, Percy Mabandu, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Redi Tlhabi, Rehana Rossouw, Sabata-mpho Mokae, Sihle Khumalo, Siphiwe Mpye, Siphiwo Mahala, Thabiso Mahlape, Thandiswa Mazwai, Thato Magano, Unathi Kondile, Unathi Magubeni, Vangi Gantsho, Xolisa Guzula, Yewande Omotoso, Zukiswa Wanner, and others still to be confirmed.

Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine and the festival’s curator, says:

In this lineup we find depth and variety. Some of our authors have been telling stories for as long as others have been alive, while others have just begun but are bringing incredible innovations to the art. Together with our storytellers, we’ll be looking black to the future.

Black Widow SocietySigh The Beloved CountryPowers of the KnifeNight DancerThe Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!Memory is the WeaponWalter and Albertina Sisulu
Run Racist Run#ZuptasMustFall and Other RantsHave You Seen Zandile?The ScoreTo Quote MyselfThese handsIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century Thing

“Abantu” is the Nguni word for “people”, and the festival’s mission is to be “the literature event that provides black writers and readers the platform and visibility they deserve”.

The first annual Abantu Book Festival will be a five-day experience of readings, discussions, music and other forms of storytelling, as well as workshops and film screenings.

Organised under the theme – Our Stories – the festival celebrates African stories through written and spoken word, visual arts, music and film. It will explore the ways in which our stories are told, and how these inform, or are informed by, our ways of being.

The Soweto Theatre (Jabulani) and Eyethu Lifestyle Centre (Mofolo) are the main venues, and African Flavour Books will be on site to make sure your favourite African and diasporan titles are on sale.

The programme will be published in November 2016.

Full author profiles are available at the Abantu Book Festival website!

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMemoirs of a Born FreeRumoursEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsAffluenzaWe Need New NamesHappiness is a Four-Letter Word
The Everyday WifeRapeEndings and BeginningsWhat Will People SayGa ke ModisaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuWhen a Man Cries
Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim wins $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature for Season of Crimson Blossoms

Fiction Friday: Forbidden Love in Northern Nigeria - Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's Debut Novel Season of Crimson Blossoms
Season of Crimson BlossomsBorn on a TuesdayNight Dancer

Alert! Abubakar Adam Ibrahim has won The Nigeria Prize for Literature for his debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms.

The shortlist for the award was Ibrahim, Elnathan John for Born on a Tuesday and Chika Unigwe for Night Dancer. Unigwe won the award in 2012 for On Black Sisters’ Street.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature, and comes with a cash prize of $100,000 (about R1.4 million).

A total of 173 entries for the prize were received this year. Next year’s prize will be for poetry.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature was founded in 2004. The first prose winner was Kaine Agary (2008) for her novel Yellow Yellow.

This year’s prize was judged by Professor Dan Izevbaye (chair), Professor Asabe Usman Kabir and Professor Isidore Diala. The members of the advisory board are Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo (chair), Professor Jerry Agada and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe.

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Read ‘Cupboards in the Dark’ – a new story by Yewande Omotoso for How Free is Free? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa

Read ‘Cupboards in the Dark’ – a new story by Yewande Omotoso for How Free is Free? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa
nullThe Woman Next Door

This Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from Yewande Omotoso’s short story “Cupboards in the Dark”, as featured in the new, free to read anthology How Free is Free? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa.

The anthology has been published by Arterial Network and includes articles, poems and works of fiction by writers such as Albie Sachs, Chenjerai Hove, Koleka Putuma, Lauren Beukes, Sylvia Vollenhoven, many more.

The book is described as “a meditation on the artistic health of the continent”.

Yewande Omotoso is a Barbadian-Nigerian who has spent many years in Johannesburg. An architect by day, she is the author of the acclaimed Bom Boy, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the MNet Film Award and the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature and won the South African Literary Award for First Time Published Author.

Her most recent novel, The Woman Next Door, was recently released internationally.

Cupboards in the Dark
Yewande Omotoso


Suppress – to inhibit the growth and development of

THEMBI COULD HEAR it. A knock-knock. She thought to get out of bed and put her ear to the wall between her room and her parents. She peeped over the top of her duvet.

The big shape was the cupboard, but in the dark it looked like a ghost, a giant tokoloshe, a monster waiting … one of those things from the horror movie she was not supposed to watch but did anyway.

The dark shape looked as if it could talk, as if it had moving parts and if she stared long enough it would start walking. It was on nights like these that Thembi wished she had a sister, older or younger didn’t matter. There was that sound again. Knock-knock.

She would even be happy with a brother on such nights.

Her parents had told her she was going to have a brother and her mother’s belly grew a bit and then after some time it became small again. And still she had no brother.

Thembi ducked back underneath the duvet, and to really feel invisible she closed her eyes. The noise continued. The reason she wanted someone else in the room with her, someone like her not an adult, was because on nights like these she wanted to be able to talk, get through the darkness and the unnerving knock-knock.

She wanted to be able to say, “That noise again, can you hear?” and “Can you see the tokoloshe?”

There was no one to talk to right away. And talking about what happened at night the next day was not the same. But it was better than nothing so Thembi spoke to her only friend, Esther.

The following day at school, during playtime, Thembi looked for Esther. She wanted to ask her to come to the far-off swings that scared the other children. There was a story that if you sat in those swings – the ones with rust and not nice paint – an evil spirit will enter through your toes, move up your legs and never leave your heart. Thembi didn’t believe in things like that – not during the daytime anyway. Swings could not send spirits up your toes, it was stupid.

with rust and not nice paint – an evil spirit will enter through your toes, move up your legs and never leave your heart. Thembi didn’t believe in things like that – not during the daytime anyway. Swings could not send spirits up your toes, it was stupid.

Cupboards in the dark, though.

Book details

  • How Free is Free? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa
    EAN: 9780992225216
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How to cut your novel in half – Nnedi Okorafor describes the painful process of writing Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor at the 2016 Open Book Festival
BintiLagoonWhat Sunny Saw in the FlamesThe Book of PhoenixChicken in the KitchenWho Fears DeathAkata Witch

Award-winning Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor was in Cape Town recently for the Open Book Festival, and chatted to filmmaker Wayne Thornley about writing in collaboration, the differences between writing for film and writing a novel, and her upcoming feature animation, Camel Racer.

Okorafor won the movie deal, along with her collaborator, Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu, in a competition held by Triggerfish Animation Studios, established with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Walt Disney Company.

During the conversation, Thornley said that in filmmaking often you experience “seismic events” where you realise you need to dump six months of work.

“If we’re serious about quality, if we’re serious about authenticity, if we’re serious about reaching a wider audience, if we’re serious about story being king,” Thornley said, “if we do go down the wrong alleyway and realise it, we have to have the courage to back out.”

In reply, Okorafor said she has never had to take something she has written and throw the whole thing away, but she did have to go through the painful process of cutting one of her novels by half – after it was finished.

How to cut your novel in half

Who Fears Death was published in 2010, and was Okorafor’s first adult novel. It won the 2011 World Fantasy Award – with Okorafor becoming the first black person to win the award since its inception in 1975 – and the 2010 Carl Brandon Kindred Award “for an outstanding work of speculative fiction dealing with race and ethnicity”. The prequel, The Book of Phoenix, was published last year, and was a top seller at Open Book.

But it didn’t come Who Fears Death didn’t come into the world without a fight.

Who Fears Death started off at over 700 pages, a Book 1 and a Book 2, and I showed it to my agent and he was like, oh this is wonderful, it’s going to win all these awards, but you need to shrink it down a lot, because this is African science fiction and it’s new, and nobody does Book 1 and 2 – what is that, a duology?

So he said, keep the same plot, keep the same everything, but get it down from over 700 pages to 300. And I did it! It took me two years, but I did it.

Okorafor said she used a method taught to her by her agent, who also happens to write books on writing.

I took the manuscript and looked at every single word and took out every single word that didn’t need to be there,” she said. “And then I combined the ‘weak phrases’ into ‘strong words’, so instead of saying ‘very big’, you say ‘huge’.

So I took the 700 pages, scattered them around, mixed them all up, and then took each page out of context and went through the whole thing. It took years, but I got it down to 389 pages, and that became Who Fears Death. Even though it had the same story, it was a completely different book.

Okorafor added that the process of making Camel Racer is very different – starting with her collaboration with Kahiu.

“With Wanuri and I, we first sit down and talk extensively about the idea and have long, long conversations. And then one of us will say, okay I’m going to write this thing, whether it’s a treatment or a piece of script, or whatever. And they write a first draft. And once that’s done and nice and typo free, they hand it over to the other person, who then has complete, open, full rein to do whatever they want with it. Then they hand it back, and we go back and forth like that. The end product is so hybrid we can’t tell which thing she wrote and which thing I wrote. It’s one thing. And it’s something that I would never have written by myself.

“Importantly, the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, and that’s another big change that I have really come to enjoy. That I can give something that I’ve just freshly written to someone else and not have to make that thing perfect. When I’m writing a novel I feel like I can’t show something to someone else unless it’s very much together. But when you’re collaborating it’s like you’re one brain.

It does have to do with chemistry. They way we work together, the honesty, and nine times out of 10 we are in complete agreement. It’s uncanny.

From there, Okorafor and Kahiu work with Thornley and three or four other people from the Triggerfish team on the more technical aspects of the project.

“During those meetings we’ll take the whole film and break it down into narrative aspects. That’s something I have never done with a novel and it was a part that was difficult for me. I’ve learned a lot. There are times when it feels like we are taking a living creature and dissecting it into pieces until it dies. But when we get to the end of the process, I see what they are trying to get me to see. And when we put it back together, it’s always better. It’s been an eye-opening experience, but it’s painful. But sometimes a little pain is necessary.

The soul of Camel Racer has stayed the same, but it keeps changing shape. The storyteller in me finds that fun, because it’s still storytelling, it’s just finding a way to tell the story in a different way.

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Image: Retha Ferguson

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Pretend you are in a dark room: Elnathan John presents 3 questions to ask yourself to avoid the pitfalls of identity politics in writing

Writers should pretend they are going into a dark room and move delicately, slowly, carefully so that they do not disrupt the balance of things. – Elnathan John

Elnathan John’s 3 questions to avoid the pitfalls of cultural appropriation in writing

Born on a TuesdayElnathan John shared his three rules for writing about other people’s experiences and communities.

John was a guest of the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, to chat about his debut novel, Born on a Tuesday.

Born on a Tuesday is a coming of age tale about a young Muslim boy who left his home to study Islam and ended up joining a gang of street kids. He and his friends are recruited to cause trouble during an election, and when violence breaks out he is forced to flee. He finds shelter at a mosque run by a kindly imam who takes a liking to him.

The book has earned praise all over the world and from some high profile authors and critics, including Petina Gappah, Taiye Selasi and Uzodinma Iweala. John was also recently shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature – along with Chika Unigwe for Night Dancer and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim for Season of Crimson Blossoms – an award worth $100,000 (about R1,4 million).

John grew up in northern Nigeria, but is not Muslim himself. At a panel titled Notions of Nationhood, where he shared the stage with Danish-Norwegian novelist Kim Leine, chair Andrew Brown asked him: “Are we entitled to write about other communities, other nations, from our own perspective?”

The question was topical, as We Need to Talk About Kevin author Lionel Shriver had caused a walkout just days before at the Brisbane Writers Festival in Australia with her keynote address, “Fiction and Identity Politics”, which many other writers considered culturally insensitive.

Elnathan John at the 2016 Open Book FestivalIn answering Brown’s question, John asked: “Is anyone entitled to anything? Does any experience belong solely to one person?”, and shared a story from his childhood to illustrate his point.

“My brother died in 2003. One of the biggest issues I had with my family was that at some point my parents were upset that I seemed to be grieving more than other people. It was almost like they were saying, ‘He was our child, we raised him, we gave birth to him, we put him through school. We have a greater loss than you. You cannot mourn more than us. Stop being a complete asshole.’

“And so the question that has always been in my mind is, to whom does any experience belong?

“I didn’t think I owned this experience, but I thought I was an integral part of it, being that I removed his body from the water, I did mouth to mouth; the last moments of his life were in my hands. I thought, well, I certainly should have a right to this experience. But even in this very close experience, I was being challenged. So you can challenge any experience.

“For me, what is important is not whether a person owns an experience they want to write about. Most experiences are external to us. If you have a female character and you are male, that experience is external to you. If you are writing about other nations, they’re external to you. Even if you are writing about your own nation, most of the experiences will be those you’ve not had.”

John said that instead of agonising over who the experience belongs to, writers should consider three questions before they start writing a story.

“What a writer needs is a certain level of empathy that allows us to show respect for the subject. That empathy, normally, would lead people to determine for themselves: One, if they should write a story. Two, if it is time to write that story. And three, how that story should be written, with the respect that it deserves. And if one cannot answer these three questions, then one should not write the story.

“Often people tell writers to write what they know. I like to say the writer should write what they want to know. What that does is that it pushes you into a dark space. And in a dark space you are more careful.

“Writers should pretend they are going into a dark room and move delicately, slowly, carefully so that they do not disrupt the balance of things.”

Read an excerpt from Born on a Tuesday here

Jennifer Malec (@projectjennifer) tweeted live from the event:

Main author image courtesy of Elnathan John on Twitter; image composite by Books LIVE/Secondary author image Retha Ferguson

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Read an excerpt from the latest edition of Chimurenga’s ChronicThe Corpse Exhibition and older graphic stories

Alert! The latest edition of Chimurenga’s Chronic is now available – both in print and online – and they have kindly shared an excerpt with Books LIVE.

The pan-African quarterly gazette’s new issue is entitled “The Corpse Exhibition and older graphic stories” and explores ideas around African Science Fiction – specifically its ability to tell a story – and graphic storytelling.

“The Corpse Exhibition” includes contributions from authors such as Hussein Nassir Sallih, London Kamwendo, Nikhil Singh, Breeze Yoko, Native Maqari, Catherine Anyango, Thenjiwe Nkosi, Loyiso Mkize, Graeme Arendse, Carsten Höller, Moses März, Mac McGill, Francis Burger, and more.

The Palm-Wine DrinkardSearch Sweet CountryMurambiKwezi

The title story is Sallih’s adaptation of Hassan Blasim’s “Corpse Exhibition” which explores the concept of terrorism in a world “dominated by capital flows”.

Read the Introduction:

The latest issue of Chimurenga’s pan-African quarterly gazette, the Chronic, explores ideas around mythscience, science fiction and graphic storytelling. Like previous editions of the Chronic, this edition is borne out of an urgent need to write our world differently – beyond the dogma of growth and development and the endless stream of future projections released by organisations like the IMF and the World Bank.

In opposition to the idea of the future as progress – a linear march through time – we propose a sense of time is innately human: “it’s time” when everyone gets there.

Science fiction on the continent is always said to be nascent, always on the cusp of emerging. A fact that has little to do with literature produced by writers from the continent and more to do with the bureaucratisation of African literature as a discipline of study.

Admittedly, “African science fiction” is a much contested term and our interest is not in questions around the genre – what African science fiction may or may not be – but in its story telling capacity: its radical ability to imagine new futures and new pasts in the here and now.

Moreover, Africa has a long history of producing comics that have pushed the boundaries of time and space and rewired seemingly redundant technology into new forms, from popular photo comics such as African Film produced by Drum in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana through the 70s and 80s to guerrilla publishing initiatives such as Kinshasa’s Mfumu’Eto and Zebulon Dread’s Hei Voetsek in Cape Town that flourished in the 1990s.

Drawing on this legacy we invited artists to produce graphic adaptations of stories that speak of everyday complexities in the world in which we live, in which we imagine we will live and in which we want to live.

This issue includes the graphic story “Avions de Nuit” by Pumle April. In an article for Chronic, April explains the meaning and symbolism behind the phrase “Avions de Nuit”:

Read the article:

In the Cameroonian imaginary “Avions de nuit” (night planes) are tiny vessels fuelled by the blood of their cargo, that make nightly flights across the Atlantic (or to neighbouring oil economies like Chad, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea – nuff people in Nigeria) carrying passages into slavery. According to news reports they could be as small as an empty tin of sardines or even a box of matches – yet despite their size any one of these planes can carry as many as twenty jumbies and fly out to great distances, with a common goal – to suck dry human beings.

The shell-body that remains would be asked: “who sold you?”

In South Africa thikholoshe extract the souls of innocent victims and transport them to the mythical kingdom of Gwadana, where they are harnessed to ride baboons through the night skies as Isisthunzela, doing the bidding of their masters.

Read an extract from “Avions de Nuit”:

Avions de Nuit by Books LIVE on Scribd

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Chinelo Okparanta shares her 6 favourite books

Chinelo Okparanta
Happiness, Like WaterUnder the Udala Trees

Chinelo Okparanta, the award-winning author of Happiness, Like Water and Under the Udala Trees, shares her favourite reads.

There are so many books I love. But I will say that I particularly appreciate satires, or novels that are in some way reflective of the social issues of the time and also simultaneously transcend the time, so:

Candide, or Optimism
Candide by Voltaire, because it’s funny but so real. Bits about buttocks being cut off. It’s a book that cautions against misguided optimism.


Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver’s Travels by Swift, because it’s brilliant and inventive. It is a satire, and is a novel that is reflective of the social issues of the time and also simultaneously transcends the time.


The Little Prince
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, because it is sweet and poetic and honest and simple (in a good way). And it’s about love, and it’s about a rose.


The Awakening
The Awakening by Kate Chopin, because it speaks to the plight of women in society, then and now.


Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart by Achebe, because, let’s face it, colonialism is still a problem.


God Help the Child
I am a huge fan of Toni Morrison. I love The Bluest Eye. But I also love God Help the Child. My favorite lines in all of literature just might be: “What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”


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2016 Open Book Festival programme



There have been a few changes to the 2016 Open Book programme.

The festival takes place from the 7-11 September in Cape Town. Scroll down to see the full programme.

Holding My BreathReacher Said NothingWhat Belongs to YouThe ScatteringBintiYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a FistThe Woman Next Door
Sigh The Beloved CountryLike It MattersKoorsDie LaughingBorn on a TuesdayWe Have Now Begun Our Descent

From Open Book:

We’re delighted to announce two additions to the programme:

1. Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan will join us for Open Book this year and we’re equally delighted that Justice Malala will be interviewing the Minister
Thursday 8 September from 10 to 11 AM at the Fugard Theatre. Book tickets here.

2. We’re also excited to announce that American culture and music writer Greg Tate is another last minute addition to the programme. Greg is a writer, musician and producer and the focus of his writing is on African-American music and culture. He is a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the leader of Burnt Sugar.
Greg’s event at Open Book is Afropunks – Bongani Madondo and Greg Tate speak to Ntone Edjabe (Chimurenga) about writing black culture on Friday 9 September, 12 to 1 PM, Fugard Annexe. Book tickets here.

Special offer for these two events for this weekend only: For every ticket bought for each of the above two events between today and Sunday (21 Augusut), we’ll give you a free ticket to any other event on the programme (excluding the author dinner and workshops). To get your free tickets, email once you’ve purchased tickets to either of the events above and clearly state which free tickets you require.

The bad news is that Jostein Gaarder (medical reasons) and Fred Khumalo (work related) have had to cancel their appearances at Open Book this year.

All tickets bought for Life and Times of Jostein Gaarder will be automatically refunded by Webtickets.

Also, please note we have added a second ticket type to “Sigh the Beloved Country” (featuring Bongani Madondo, Sindiwe Magona and Bongani Kona) at Guga S’thebe in Langa on Sunday 11 Sept. The cost of this ticket is R80 and includes entrance into the event and transport to the venue and back. Transport will leave the Book Lounge at 1.30 PM.

Alternatively, you can just buy a normal ticket to the event and make your own way there – secure parking is available at the venue. To book either of these ticket types, please click here.

2016 Open Book programme by Books LIVE on Scribd

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Book bites: 7 August 2016

The Cry of the HangkakaThe Cry of the Hangkaka
Anne Woodborne (Modjaji Books)
Book buff
The adult world seen through the eyes of a child is a popular device. Here the child is Karin whose mother, Irene, is shamed in post-World War II South African society by the stigma of divorce and rushes off to marry Jack: a drunken mining engineer who takes his new family to Nigeria. Karin makes her escape in reading, her curious choice being a longwinded blood-and-guts tale of Vikings. Jack is so irredeemably nasty it becomes hard to believe in him. But Woodborne has nevertheless created a powerful view of a suffocating 1950s colonial society. — Margaret von Klemperer

The Loving HusbandThe Loving Husband
Christobel Kent (Little, Brown)
Book thrill
Fran Hall’s husband is murdered outside their farmhouse in rural Norfolk. Isolated, with two young children, she finds herself being badgered and bullied by the police. Sleep deprived and grieved, Fran is slow to awaken to uncomfortable truths: how people can use you and betray your trust, and that misogyny still lurks inside organisations sworn to protect you. The Loving Husband is a disturbing domestic thriller that delves into the darker side of marriage, revealing that not all abuse is physical. — Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Permanent RemovalPermanent Removal
Alan S Cowell (Jacana)
Book buff
A thriller about a US diplomat returning to South Africa at the time of the TRC to face his own involvement on the wrong, or at least morally dubious, side of the struggle against apartheid. A slightly well-worn trope perhaps, but the lively pace flows well through both past and present. It resonates with questions about the motives of liberal whites who became involved in the struggle and leaves the reader with no trite, easy answers. Just beneath the surface are questions about the anti-terror campaigns now being waged by the US. The author spent many years as a foreign correspondent in South Africa in the 1980s and it shows. His details ring largely true, except for a few lapses – like referring to the communities of Crown Mines as Old Deep. — Hamilton Wende @HamiltonWende

Chris Ryan (Hodder & Stoughton)
John Porter, hero of the Strike Back novel and TV series, returns in this fast-paced, often-violent adventure. It’s a prequel, set in the late ’90s. After the SAS suffers a massacre during a training exercise, Porter leads an M16 strike team to exact retribution, tracking the perpetrators throughout Europe with his trademark icy precision. The geopolitical shenanigans which form the backdrop to the novel provide insight into the Bosnian genocide and its aftermath, with an unexpected plot twist at the end that hints at collusion within the British military establishment and the aristocracy. Ryan’s intimate knowledge of special forces operations makes this a very plausible novel. — Ayesha Kajee @ayeshakajee

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Read an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new short story, inspired by Donald and Melania Trump

Half of a Yellow SunWe Should All Be FeministsAmericanahPurple HibiscusAmericanahThe Thing Around Your Neck

Have you ever tried to imagine a day in the life of the Trumps? How would Melania Trump deal with the day-to-day challenges of being married to the infamous businessperson, author and politician, Donald Trump? Does she feel accepted by his children, is there harmony in the Trump clan? Or are they just like any other family, riddled with politics, jealousies and heartaches?

Luckily for us, we don’t need to speculate any longer. Award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a short story for The New York Times Book Review entitled “The Arrangements”, in which she depicts Melania’s most inner thoughts and fears.

The story is the first in a series of fiction inspired by the upcoming American election and was published on Tuesday, 28 June.

From the first sentence – “Melania decided she would order the flowers herself” – the reader is aware that “The Arrangements” is not only a story about the Trump dynasty as perceived through the eyes of Melania. It is also a homage to Virginia Woolf as it echoes that famous first sentence: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

Read an excerpt from “The Arrangements”:

Melania decided she would order the flowers herself. Donald was too busy now anyway to call Alessandra’s as usual and ask for “something amazing.” Once, in the early years, before she fully understood him, she had asked what his favorite flowers were.

“I use the best florists in the city, they’re terrific,” he replied, and she realized that taste, for him, was something to be determined by somebody else, and then flaunted.

At first, she wished he would not keep asking their guests, “How do you like these great flowers?” and that he would not be so nakedly in need of their praise, but now she felt a small tug of annoyance if a guest did not gush as Donald expected. The florists were indeed good, their peonies delicate as tissue, even if a little boring, and the interior decorators Donald had brought in — all the top guys used them, he said — were good, too, even if all that gold yellowness bordered on staleness, and so she did not disagree because Donald disliked dissent, and he only wanted the best for them, and she had what she really needed, this luxurious peace. But today, she would order herself. It was her dinner party to celebrate her parents’ anniversary. Unusual orchids, maybe. Her mother loved uncommon things.

Her Pilates instructor, Janelle, would arrive in half an hour. She had just enough time to order the flowers and complete her morning skin routine. She would use a different florist, she decided, where Donald did not have an account, and pay by herself. Donald might like that; he always liked the small efforts she made. Do the little things, don’t ask for big things and he will give them to you, her mother advised her, after she first met Donald. She gently patted three different serums on her face and then, with her fingertips, applied an eye cream and ­sunscreen.

What a bright morning. Summer sunlight raised her spirits. And Tiffany was leaving today. It felt good. The girl had been staying for the past week, and came and went, mostly staying out of her way. Still, it felt good. Yesterday she had taken Tiffany to lunch, so that she could tell Donald that she had taken Tiffany to lunch.

“She adores all my kids, it’s amazing,” Donald once told a reporter — he was happily blind to the strangeness in the air whenever she was with his children.

To keep the lunch short, she had told Tiffany that she had an afternoon meeting with the Chinese company that produced her jewelry — even though she had no plans. Tiffany had cheerily forked spinach salad into her mouth, her California voice too pleasant, too fey. Her wrists looked fragile and breakable. She talked about how much she loved Ivanka’s new collection; she talked about a vegan recipe, reciting details of berries and seaweed, as though Melania would actually ever make it. She played a recording of her singing and said: “It’s not there yet but I’m working on it. You think Dad will like it?” Melania said, “Of course.”


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