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Archive for the ‘Penguin’ Category

Kingsmead Book Fair line-up announced!

Authors, editors, poets and publishers will congregate at Kingsmead College on Saturday 13 May from 9:30 AM to 6 PM for the sixth annual Kingsmead Book Fair.

Bibliophiles can expect an assortment of literary discussions including deliberations on political unrest in South Africa, culinary conversations with some of South Africa’s most prolific food-writers, and the nitty-gritty behind the art of short story writing.

Fans of mega-selling author Lesley Pearse, pay heed: the illustrious writer will share the secrets of her success with the Sunday Times’ very own Michele Magwood in Kingsmead’s Music Centre at 09:30 AM. Pearse has authored 21 books, including Dead to Me, Without a Trace, and Survivor.

On the local front the likes of Jonno Proudfoot, author of the Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0, award-winning journalist and author Zubeida Jaffer (On Trial with Mandela), the acclaimed novelist and short story writer Yewande Omotoso (The Woman Next Door), and renowned poet Phillippa de Villiers Yaa (The Everyday Wife) will participate in discussions, debates and – in Proudfoot’s case – a culinary demonstration.

Kingsmead Book Fair supports numerous literary projects across the country, encouraging and instilling a love of reading and contributing to South African literacy rates across the board. The Link Reading Programme, Alexandra Education Committee, Sparrow Schools, Read to Rise, and St Vincent’s School for the Deaf are all supported by this singular book fair.

The full programme for this year’s fair – aptly themed ‘Worlds Within Words’ – is available here.

Tickets can be purchased online via Webtickets.

‘Til May 13th!

Dead to Me

Book details


Without a Trace




Real Meal Revolution


On Trial with Mandela


The Woman Next Door


The Everyday Wife

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When Irish eyes are crying: Michele Magwood reviews John Boyne’s latest novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies

John Boyne’s new novel explores the darker side of Irish culture, writes Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

The Heart's Invisible Furies The Heart’s Invisible Furies
John Boyne (Doubleday)

When John Boyne wrote his previous novel A History of Loneliness, it was the first he had set in his native Ireland. Until then, with a dozen or so books already under his belt, he had never found the right story to tell and the right time to tell it. But with more and more evidence of child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests coming to light, he zeroed in on this disgrace, and on the diabolical power of the church.

In interviews about the book he explained that his own youth had been blighted by priests: “They preached love and practised hatred.”

It was a searing book, fuelled by his ire. But if readers thought his anger and subject matter were spent, they were wrong. He was just getting started, and his new novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies is also underpinned by a barely concealed rage, this time against hypocrisy and Ireland’s attitude to homosexuality and towards women.

On the phone from his home in Dublin, Boyne talks about the new book, a chronicle of the life of one Cyril Avery told in segments of seven years. “They say that every seven years our entire bodies regenerate. I thought it would be interesting, rather than following him constantly through his life, every event of his life, to just pick up every seven years and see where he is.”

The story begins in the rural village of Goleen in County Cork in 1945. The parish priest has discovered that Catherine Goggin, 16, is pregnant, and he blasts her from the pulpit. When she refuses to name the father he literally, appallingly, kicks her down the aisle, banishing her from the parish. Her shamed family will have nothing to do with her, so she climbs on a bus to Dublin.

“Women in Ireland have always had a rough go,” says Boyne, “so I’ve been trying in recent books to write strong female characters to comment on the role of women. I didn’t want Catherine to be a victim at all, I wanted her to be a strong woman who gets on with her life and does well for herself.”

She gives the baby up for adoption, and he is taken in by a well-to-do couple, the Averys, who name him Cyril. From the beginning they remind him that he’s “not a real Avery” and he grows up in a state of benign, distracted neglect.

“They aren’t mean to him in any way, but they’re not exactly loving either. They treat him as an adult when he’s really only a child.”

The lonely boy falls in love with one of his friends, and begins to realise he might be gay. “He’s terrified, he knows this is going to have a difficult effect on his life. Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland and was only decriminalised in the early ’90s.”

Boyne digs deep into his own experiences of growing up gay in that society. Master storyteller that he is, he spins it out for close on 600 pages as we accompany Cyril through the decades. There is discovery and disappointment, pain and elation, Aids and the IRA, a brief marriage and homophobic beatings.

He lives in Amsterdam and New York; he makes good choices and disastrous ones, and comes, finally, to know and accept himself. It is, of course, about the redemptive power of the human spirit. The priest sentenced Catherine and her baby to a life of shame; instead they would live fully and flourish.

One of the novel’s great pleasures is its comedy. To counter its seriousness, Boyne discharges scenes and asides ranging from ribald to deadpan. Maude, Cyril’s adoptive mother, is an eccentric, chain-smoking novelist whose books had “positive reviews but minuscule sales, something that pleased her enormously, for she considered popularity in the bookshops to be vulgar”.

A man is arrested for exposing himself to a young woman “but the charges were dropped when they learned she was a Protestant”.

“I enjoyed writing the comic sections,” he says. “It kind of opened up a part of my brain that I haven’t used much in the past. A lot of my books are quite bleak.”

If you’d encountered Boyne when he was in South Africa in 2015, appearing at the Franschhoek and Kingsmead book festivals, you would have noticed him checking his phone frequently. That’s because he was awaiting news of the referendum at home on same-sex marriage. When Ireland voted “yes” he was elated.

Two years on, though, he is more circumspect.

“Sixty percent wasn’t really a landslide, it meant 40% said no. There are still a lot of people out there who are really offended by how a person is born.”

Still, the country has changed for the better and the stranglehold of the church has diminished greatly.

“They’ve lost all moral authority,” he says. He envies the younger generation. “They don’t have the prejudices and phobias as older people do.”

Boyne is satisfied that he’s laid some ghosts to rest in the last two novels. “I feel I’ve tackled the two big subjects and I feel a weight off my shoulders, so I feel pretty good about that. I’m ready to try something else again.”

Boyne’s best books

The Go-BetweenThe Go-Between by LP Hartley. Probably my favourite novel and one of the great explorations of how a broken heart can shatter a life.
David CopperfieldDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I read this when I was about 13 years old and it was my introduction to adult literature and epic storytelling.
The Cider House RulesThe Cider House Rules by John Irving. My favourite contemporary author, a novel that is political and feminist in nature, it opened my mind to how literature can speak on important subjects while never sacrificing story.
Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. This taught me how the hero of a novel does not have to be likable, he or she just has to be interesting.
A Boy's Own StoryA Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White. A novel I read when I was a teenager coming to terms with my sexuality. White’s fiction and non-fiction has always been both provocative and deeply felt.
The SlapThe Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. My favourite 21st-century novel. As well as being an incisive study of modern Australia and its attitude to race and gender, it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling with eight distinctive voices.
Follow Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

•Listen to the podcast here:

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Fred Khumalo’s #ZuptasMustFall recipient of PanSALB Multilingualism Award 2017

Fred Khumalo was announced as the winner of the Pan South African Language Board’s Multilingualism Award for his satirical take on South Africa’s socio-political issues, #ZuptasMustFall and other rants (2016).

The announcement took place during the board’s annual Multilingualism Awards night at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Tuesday.

The recipients of the awards (of which the categories include ‘music’, ‘media’, ‘language and literature’ and ‘education’, among others) are commemorated for their contribution to promoting, preserving and protecting multilingualism in South Africa.

Khumalo is the author of Touch My Blood, Bitches’ Brew, Seven Steps to Heaven, The Lighter Side of Life on Robben Island and the recent Dancing the Death Drill.

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Book launch: You Lost Me by Marita van der Vyver

You Lost Me Marita van der Vyver will be launching her new novel You Lost Me in conversation with PEN SA member Michele Magwood.

Event Details

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Drop The Ball advocates shattering the glass ceiling – starting at home

For women, a glass ceiling at work is not the only barrier to success – it’s also the emotional labour at home. Women have become accustomed to delegating, advocating and negotiating for themselves at the office, but when it comes to managing households, they still bear the brunt on their own shoulders. A simple solution is staring them in the face: negotiate with the men in their personal lives.

In Drop The Ball, Tiffany Dufu urges women to embrace imperfection, to expect less of themselves and more from others – enabling them to flourish at work and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships at home.

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Dreams, Betrayal and Hope: Mamphela Ramphele’s critique of SA’s public and private sectors now available

Systematically since 1994 the ANC government has betrayed the dream of democracy. A dream that imagined equality, the end of poverty, a thriving economy, and a just and prosperous future for all. Most devastatingly this betrayal can be seen in the failure of educational institutions to develop the talents and skills of the young generations.

Given the ‘Fallist’ protests, given the public service delivery protests, given the voters’ message to the ANC in the municipal elections, ordinary people are suffering. Poverty still
wears a black face. White racism becomes ever more strident.

The country needs to hope again.

In this searing critique of what’s gone wrong in the public and private sectors, Mamphela Ramphele turns to the tenets of black consciousness and argues for an ‘emotional settlement’ to heal the trauma of colonialism and apartheid that still ravages both black and white communities. Emotional settlement would unlock empathy for others and unleash the potential of all citizens to work together for a ‘socio–economic settlement’ to promote social justice and equality for all.

‘It is time,’ she says, ‘to reimagine the country and its future. We owe this to our children’s children. We dare not fail.’

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Dinosaurs, Diamonds & Democracy: two billion years of South African history in 128 pages

Dinosaurs Diamonds and Democracy

An asteroid the size of Table Mountain crashed into what was to become South Africa over two billion years ago, marking the spot. The country’s history since then has always been robust and full of energy. This book takes you in record time from that moment, when the earth’s richest gold reefs were shaped, to the advent of democracy in 1994, another event that stunned the world, and beyond.

Along the way you will encounter some of the most ancient dinosaurs on record, the very first people on the planet, and the first cultures. You will see outsiders moving in to reshape history: hunters and gatherers, cultivators and herders, iron-workers from the north, and immigrants from Europe and Asia. They fought and made peace; they stumbled upon gold and diamonds; they rose to the heights of excellence and sank to the depths of oppression, until on one day they all queued as equals to elect a government.

That is the story marked by dinosaurs, diamonds and democracy.

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Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s Stay With Me explores 1980s Nigeria, the undoing of family, and the bonds of motherhood

‘There are things even love can’t do… If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love…’

Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.

Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayòbámi Adébáyò weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.

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Rachel Rhys’ A Dangerous Crossing “thrilling, seductive, absorbing”

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever.

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by
the world on-board: cocktails, black–tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

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Literary Crossroads: Fred Khumalo on the importance of “telling stories which have never been told”

Fred Khumalo in discussion with Panashe Chigumadzi. Photo cred: The Goethe Institute
Johannesburg’s Goethe Institute recently hosted a Literary Crossroads talk on the course of history and its inflicted casualties, emphasising the struggle of the individual for autonomy and survival and its depiction in contemporary African literature.

Fred Khumalo and Nigerian author Folu Agoi were the intended guest speakers but owing to a delay in receiving his visa on time Agoi was unable to attend the event.

Novelist and founder of Vanguard magazine, Panashe Chigumadzi, led the discussion.

Khumalo opened the discussion by reading from his debut novel, Touch my Blood (2006). The extract was a written account of “my first encounter with colonialism”, set during his studies in Canada, wherein Khumalo described the inferiority he experienced seated among ‘European’ academics.

He added that “the more I write, the the more I realise I can’t escape my history.” This comment complements his strong belief that contemporary African writers should write their own history.


Khumalo is of opinion that anger help fuels creativity and that he wrote his recent Dancing the Death Drill out of anger; anger for the denial of black voices to be heard during apartheid; anger for the denial of black history.

Upon being asked by an audience member whether Dancing the Death Drill will lead to a surge in South African historical novels, Khumalo replied that “we owe it to ourselves to tell stories which have never been told.”

If not, Khumalo argues, these stories might be appropriated by those who’ll do it injustice. According to Khumalo historical novels are the most logical way to go ahead, offering African writers the opportunity to “expand on the footnotes in history books.”

Khumalo concluded by saying that historical novels are the most supreme form of history, as it offers the African author the opportunity to write an accurate, autonomous account of their history.


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