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Book Bites: 18 June 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Right Behind You
Lisa Gardner (Hodder & Stoughton)
Book thrill
Profilers Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner have fostered a troubled youngster, Sharlah, who is traumatised by a childhood in which her drunken father murdered her mother, only to be killed himself by Sharlah’s older brother Telly, aged 9. Telly, now 17, has gone on a killing spree, starting with his foster parents: it seems he is after Sharlah, but she has little memory of the night her parents died, and no clue as to what would trigger this murderous rage. A manhunt ensues, with all the usual drama. This is the seventh book featuring Quincy and Conner and, while it works well as a standalone, is sadly forgettable. – Aubrey Paton

This Is How It Always Is
Laurie Frankel (Headline)
Book buff
The Walsh-Adams family already had four sons by the time Claude arrived. He was a bright boy, like his brothers, but different. By five Claude had renamed herself Poppy, grew out her hair, insisted on only wearing dresses and carried her lunch to school in a purse. Frankel, who wrote this novel as a tribute to her trans-daughter, gives an honest portrayal of the difficulties faced when raising a transgender child. For while the family may love and accept their child, society will have varying opinions, some of which can be deadly. Frankel’s true gift is capturing the essence of family dynamics, from the chaos to the hilarious smart remarks. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Live by Night
Dennis Lehane (Abacus)
Book thrill
Written, produced, directed by and starring Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, Live by Night was released last year as a major movie. A major movie disappointment, that is – comprehensively panned by the critics. Perhaps Affleck should have left the script to the original author, Lehane, one of the great American fiction writers. The tale starts in 1920s Boston, during the Prohibition years and sweeps majestically through to the eve of WW2. Joe Coughlin, a 19-year-old small-time stick-up crook, foolishly robs the casino of a big-time gangster. During the heist he becomes intrigued by one of the workers, the sassy, fearless Emma Gould. He tracks her down afterwards and falls desperately in love. But Emma is also the moll of the gangster whose casino Coughlin robbed, setting off a blood-splattered train of events that culminate in Coughlin becoming one of America’s most feared gangsters. – William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye

The Mermaid’s Daughter
Ann Claycomb (HarperCollins)
Book fling
This is the modernised version of The Little Mermaid – not the happy singing Disney version but the edgy Hans Christian Andersen telling. Kathleen is a young student and soprano opera singer. Her feet hurt like hell – like she is walking on broken glass all time – and her mouth pains with her tongue feeling like an alien part of her body. The fates decree that her life is a tragedy of murder. It’s an easy read and seems to be suited for younger readers but the story has a great hook and one learns quite a bit of the workings of an opera. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

Alan Paton Award shortlist: Greg Marinovich talks about his book Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre

Published in the Sunday Times

Murder at Small KoppieMurder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre
Greg Marinovich (Penguin Books)

How did you go about the research for the book?
I was writing up a piece after a visit to the Koppie that was at the heart of the Lonmin strike when a photojournalist friend called to tell me that the police had opened fire with live rounds. I had no idea of the number of miners killed and weighed driving to Marikana before nightfall against getting my story in. I chose to write. When my wife and I watched the video footage later that night, we began sobbing. Thus began a journey into what happened and why. My ‘uncovering’ of the second massacre site changed the narrative that the police cover-up had been dictating. The mining community of Nkaneng shantytown knew about Small Koppie, yet the police and the state gulled the dozens of journalists there that day, and the dozens that descended later, into a narrative that misdirected their focus.

What prompted you to write a book about the Marikana massacre in South African?
This blatant cover up by those with power impelled me to keep telling the miners’ story. The propaganda had to be contradicted. The complexity of the lives of the miners and the extent of the forces trying to suppress the truth drove me to keep digging. And while the Daily Maverick was willing to run many thousands of words, it needed to be pulled into a book that could make sense of it all.

What was the most difficult part of writing it?
The most difficult part was finding out the ‘unknown unknowns’. It was really the investigations by lawyers and investigators in and around the Commission of Inquiry that allowed me to get information and insights I would never have had a clue about. My biggest frustration was the refusal by any of the Marikana cops to speak directly to me, even though one gave some information through a third party.

You write that the struggle of the poor is invisibility. In what way did Marikana make them visible?
We, the non-poor, only notice the poor when they manage to break through the invisibility shield that society sustains. That breach is achieved by transgression – when someone violates our space or property, or when a community stands up, like at Marikana. Typically, we react with panic. Yet most of us tend not to reach for the ADT panic button as our pockets are continually rifled by the robber barons of big business and political elites, white capital and tenderpreneurs. Only when people began to die at Marikana, did we take note – initially because the markets were worried about Lonmin’s stocks. Therein lies the contradiction: miners, spaza shop owners, laundry women and pit toilet diggers depend on Lonmin more than the rich investors do, yet their needs are not taken into account. This despite their votes being the currency that enables the patronage and crony capital that government depends on to extend their rule.

The Marikana massacre is a rip in the fabric of a society we thought we were mending. What do you feel is the biggest lesson we should learn about what happened?
The truth behind what happened at Marikana has rent a hole through our illusion of a just society, of South Africans as a lamp for the world. Marikana and its aftermath have revealed the venality of our leaders, the grubbiness within the swankiest boardrooms, the dull, uncaring gaze of the average South African upon cold-blooded executions by the forces of law, murder by the desperate and grasping, corruption flaunted without shame. We need to reclaim our soul.

Book details

Barry Ronge Prize shortlist: Kopano Matlwa discusses her novel Period Pain

Published in the Sunday Times

Period Pain

Period Pain
Kopano Matlwa (Jacana Media)

I write because I need to. It is through writing that I try (or at least attempt) to make sense of the world. I wrote Period Pain because I needed to, because it was through writing it that I began to work through my own disappointments with our “new South Africa” and remind myself why it is, despite the decay, I still believe in the South African dream.

Sometimes I write pages of pages of scraps without any sense of where those scraps are going, and then out of nowhere a title comes and it grips me, and I sigh a sigh of great relief because I know that I have a title and that means I’m writing a novel!

I’ve always had a fascination with how we as women relate to our bodies. I recall as a medical student or maybe someone told me the story and it made such an impression on me that I remember it as my own, I can’t be sure… It was during a rotating of an obstetrics and gynaecology module, and sitting in on a consultation between the gynaecologist on duty and a middle-age woman from one of Cape Town’s many disadvantaged communities.

The woman kept referring to her vagina as her ‘skaamte’ i.e. her shame. I remember being so struck by that. So saddened. So angry. So embarrassed. Her shame? Why shame? Who knows where titles come? Perhaps from the same magical place novels come from. I suppose in some subconscious way the title Period Pain came from a frustration with the shadow of contempt cast upon our bodies, by society, by men, by language, by ourselves, from a frustration with our bodies being the battlefield, the scapegoat, the excuse. And then there is also, of course, the pain of the period that South Africa is in but that’s probably a whole other topic for another day…


What is it inside of us that makes us so evil? And how do we become better? Why are we capable of so much harm and badness? How do we change? And stay changed?

Nyasha says her group of new intern doctors all have weaves. Twelve girls as black as night, with mops of plastic on their heads. She is annoyed.

‘Stupid girls. Book smart, but stupid. They can tell you the nerve that innervates the stapedius muscle, but they can’t see the foolishness in walking around with heaps of self-hatred on their heads.’

She wants me to get involved.

‘Why don’t you tell them, Chaba? These are your sisters, your South African sisters. Maybe if you speak to them, you can put some sense into their heads.’

I say nothing, so she continues. ‘We know we hate ourselves as black people. That we know. But now we’re exposing ourselves to white people, too. Now we are exposing this dark stain of self-hatred on our race. We’re giving them evidence that we are indeed a foolish, self-loathing people. A thing to be pitied. How much do those weaves cost? These girls have only been working a few months and already they’re enriching the industries that strive to oppress us instead of building our communities.’

Her tirade continues, and she seems not bothered by my obvious disinterest.

‘Now I must keep these dreadlocks, even though they wear my head down, even though I’ve grown tired of them, because one of us, some of us, must have pride. We can’t all walk around like mad people. If aliens were to come from Mars, what would they make of us, Chaba?’

Nyasha wants to fight, fight, fight. She hates white people and blames them for everything. Maybe she’s right, maybe they are to blame. But it is what it is. What’s happened has happened. We can’t go back, and we certainly can’t change who we are to try to avenge the past. She says we black South Africans are too nice, too accommodating, too soft. ‘Weak’ and ‘pathetic’ are the words she uses to describe us.

‘We need to stop bending over backwards, breaking our backs to make them feel comfortable, welcome, safe. Put a white man in charge and he’ll only serve his own interests.’

Maybe, Nyasha, maybe that’s true, but maybe it isn’t. And maybe, Nyasha, we need to remember that this world is fallen. There are wars we will never win, and maybe the end game is not to triumph over fleeting kingdoms in this life, but to conquer the battle for eternity.

Of course she scoffs when I say things like that.

‘Why does your god make it so hard for us to love him, Chaba? Why play these games? Create this world, bring us here, only to watch us suffer? Why does he hide? Is he a coward? Why doesn’t he come out here and see the mess he’s made, come see how his creation is doing?’

I’m no good at arguing. I get too overwhelmed and my mind goes blank, so I say nothing.

Ma insists that my friendship with Nyasha will only result in pain. She insists that foreigners are crafty, and that Nyasha is only being my friend to steal all my knowledge and overtake me. This is what foreigners like to do, she says. They come to our country to take from us all the things we fought for.

I’ve given up trying to reason with Ma. When I go home on weekends she makes me take off my clothes at the door; she doesn’t want me coming into the house with Nyasha’s charms and black magic. It’s her way of getting back at me for leaving her and moving in with Nyasha.

If only they knew how similar they were, how much they have in common. They both want me to hate white people, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to hate foreigners, either. I don’t want to hate anybody. It’s tiring. I’m already so tired from work. It’s much more than I can deal with at the moment.

But they constantly remind me that I must. They retell old stories of deceit, of conniving, of looting, and then share new ones. I don’t want to disappoint them, make them worry that I’m unfocused, that I’ve dropped the ball. So I often just nod in agreement and hope they’ll stop. But this ball is too heavy to carry. It hurts my arms, and with it in my hands I cannot do anything else.

So I don’t tell Nyasha what I did with Francois at the Christmas party. And when he walks past me in the doctors’ parking lot and smiles, she’s immediately annoyed and goes off on one of her tirades.

‘White men think they can just smile at a black woman and she’ll oblige. They think we should be flattered that they even see us. No, not just flattered, honoured. It makes me sick. Even the morbidly obese ones, who could never summon the courage to approach one of their own, think we’ll just drop our panties at the sight of their skin.’

I pretend not to hear, mumble that I have pre-op bloods to take before the morning ward round, and rush off.

Book details

Call for submissions: 2017/8 Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology

The Jacana Literary Foundation recently released their press release calling for submissions for the 2017/8 Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology:

The Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF) and the Other Foundation are pleased to announce that submissions for the second annual Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology for 2017/8 are now open.

Created in honour of the late activist Gerald Kraak’s extraordinary legacy of supporting human rights, this award advances his contribution to building a world that is safe and welcoming to all. The unique award calls for multi-layered, brave and stirring African voices that represent a new wave of fresh storytelling, one that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality.

Submissions will be accepted until 24 July 2017, and will be open to the following genres:

Journalism / magazine reporting
Scholarly articles in academic journals and book chapters / extracts
Social media / blog writings and contributions

Only the very best work submitted will be short-listed and published in the anthology, with the winners announced in 2018 at an awards ceremony hosted by the Other Foundation. A cash prize of R25 000 will be awarded to the author of the winning piece. The JLF will partner with publishers throughout the African continent in order to disseminate the work as widely as possible.

Gerald Kraak (1956–2014) was a passionate champion of social justice, an anti-apartheid activist and the head of the Atlantic Philanthropies’ Reconciliation and Human Rights Programme in South Africa. He authored two books, including the European Union Literary Award-winning Ice in the Lungs (Jacana, 2005), which explores South African politics, and directed a documentary on gay conscripts in the apartheid army. He will be remembered for being kind and generous, delightfully irreverent and deeply committed to realising an equal and just society for all. His unfinished novel, Shadow Play, posthumously completed by Alison Lowry, was published by Jacana Media in May 2017.

Read more here.

Pride and Prejudice

Book details

  • Pride and Prejudice: The Gerald Kraak Anthology African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality
    EAN: 9781431425181
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!


Ice in the Lungs


Shadow Play

Times Media’s book handover in conjunction with The BFG: The Big Friendly Giant to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

Times Media Films recently completed a book collection drive with the BFG for books to donate to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital library.

Over 200 boxes of books were collected, of which a few were handed over today.

This initiative plays an enormous role in the necessity of instilling a love of books and reading in children from a young age. Not only can reading be described as the apex of educational escapism, it also is both fun and informative. The patients at Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will only benefit from this donation.

The unpacking commences.


Voila! Boasting classics such as Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys-series to a ‘book of the film’ version of High School Musical, the formerly empty bookshelf has now been transformed into a library.


Caron Rypstra, publicity manager: Independent Films; Pinky Mashigo, chief of operations: Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund; and Christiana Kossioris: business manger at Times Media Film proudly display the new additions to the hospital’s library.


In keeping with the hospital’s children and family-centered theme, the walls are decorated with characters who each have their own names and identities. There’s talk of creating a book series dedicated to all the characters. Watch this space…


Lulu Herkt, PR consultant for the hospital, in front of one of the hospital’s many ‘story walls’. Each wall depicts a beautifully illustrated (thank you, Piet Grobler!) version of a local children’s story. Aitsa.

David Grossman wins Man Booker International Prize

A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman was announced as the winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize on Wednesday 14 June. The novel was translated by Jessica Cohen and is published in Britain by Jonathan Cape. Celebrating the finest global fiction in translation, the Man Booker International Prize awards both the winning author and translator £25,000. They have also received a further £1,000 each for being shortlisted.

Grossman is a bestselling Israeli writer of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature, whose works have been translated into 36 languages. He has been the recipient of numerous global awards, including the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Buxtehuder Bulle in Germany, Rome’s Premio per la Pace e l’Azione Umanitaria, the Frankfurt Peace Prize, and Israel’s Emet Prize.

Cohen, who was born in Colchester, England, but raised in Jerusalem, previously translated Grossman’s critically acclaimed To the End of the Land as well as work by other major Israeli writers including Etgar Keret, Rutu Modan, Dorit Rabinyan, Ronit Matalon, Amir Gutfreund, Tom Segev, and Golden Globe-winning director Ari Folman.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar unfolds over the course of one final show by stand-up comedian, Dovaleh Gee. Charming, erratic and repellent – Dovaleh exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him. With themes that encompass betrayal between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt and redress, A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read.

Of the book, The Guardian commented: ‘This isn’t just a book about Israel: it’s about people and societies horribly malfunctioning. Sometimes we can only apprehend these truths through story – and Grossman, like Dovaleh, has become a master of the truth-telling tale.’

The novel is announced as the 2017 winner by Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival at an exclusive dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

It was selected from 126 books by a panel of five judges, chaired by Nick Barley and consisting of: Daniel Hahn, an award-winning writer, editor and translator; Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist and one of the most widely read writers in Turkey; Chika Unigwe, author of four novels including On Black Sisters’ Street; and Helen Mort, a poet who has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize, and has won a Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award five times.

Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 judging panel, comments:

David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he’s pulled it off spectacularly. A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman’s willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer’s craft.

Luke Ellis, CEO of Man Group, comments:

I and my colleagues at Man Group would like to congratulate David Grossman and Jessica Cohen, along with each of the shortlisted authors and translators. The Man Booker International Prize plays a vital role in celebrating the extraordinary depth of global writing talent, opening up avenues for authors that were previously closed and recognising the unique contribution of translation. We are very proud to sponsor the Prize, and equally proud to support the grassroots of literature and literacy through the Booker Prize Foundation’s charitable activities, helping young writers and readers, and those for whom access to books is a daily challenge.

This is only the second year that the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded to a single book, with the £50,000 prize divided equally between the author and the translator. Its prior form honoured a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language, and was awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009, Philip Roth in 2011, Lydia Davis in 2013, and László Krasznahorkai in 2015.

The 2016 winner was The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith. According to statistics from Nielsen Book, translated fiction from Korea has grown 400% since 2016. This highlights the remarkable impact the newly evolved Man Booker International Prize has had.

The prize is sponsored by Man Group, an active investment management firm that also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest in contemporary literature.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

Book details

Gorgeously illustrated fable creates awareness about the endangered riverine rabbit; available in both English and Afrikaans

Louisa Punt-Fouché

In Rarest Riverine Rabbit the author weaves words and images to create awareness about the tame but endangered riverine rabbit that lives on her farm in the Karoo. When Lila (an old lady that uses her walking stick to count all the animals on earth) wanders through the Karoo and meets the magnificent Bruno with his very, very long ears, his life changes forever. Rarest Riverine Rabbit is a fable that hopes to make children and adults aware of the disastrous impact we have on a precious environment. The author’s magical illustrations will also introduce young readers to the rich plant and animal life of the Karoo.

Originals or prints of the illustrations can be ordered from the author. Also visit and to read about Louisa and her husband’s projects and their attempts to save the riverine rabbit.

Louisa Punt-Fouché has more than 30 years’ experience as a clinical psychologist, researcher, and lecturer in die field of Jungian psychology. (She holds a D.Phil Degree in Psychology). Louisa is also an established visual artist, author, yoga instructor, canteadora (keeper of stories) and activist for animal rights. Three years ago she and her husband moved to the Prince Albert Valley where they live and work on the Kredouw Olive Farm. She also makes jewellery and environmentally friendly vegan olive oil products (Sasha Do No Harm) that are not tested on animals. Some of her previous books include Webs of Enchantment and Daar is kewers in my ruggraat.

In Skaarser-as-skaarste oewerkonyn gebruik die skrywer woordbeelde om die storie te vertel van die mak, maar bedreigde oewerkonyn wat op haar plaas in die Karoo woon.

Wanneer Lila (’n ou vrou wat haar kierie gebruik om al die diere op aarde te tel) deur die Karoo stap en Bruno die oewerkonyn ontmoet, word dié besonderse dier met sy lang, lang ore se wêreld op sy kop gekeer. Skaarser-as-skaarste oewerkonyn is nie ’n gewone kinderboek nie, maar ’n fabel wat ouers én kinders bewus maak van die mens se vernietigende impak op die omgewing. Boonop stel die skrywer se magiese illustrasies jong lesers bekend aan die Karoo se ryk plante- en dierelewe.

Kunswerke of afdrukke van illustrasies kan bestel word by skrywer. Besoek ook en om meer te lees oor Louisa en haar man se projekte en hul pogings om die oewerkonyn te red.

Louisa Punt-Fouché het meer as 30 jaar se ervaring as kliniese sielkundige, navorser en lektor in die veld van Jungiaanse sielkunde. (Sy het onder meer ’n D.Phil-graad in sielkunde verwerf.) Sy is ook ’n gevestigde visuele kunstenaar, skrywer, joga-instrukteur, canteadora (storieverteller) en kampvegter vir diereregte. Sy en haar man het die stad verlaat en woon en werk die afgelope drie jaar op die Kredouw-olyfplaas in die Prins Albert-vallei. Hier maak sy ook juwele en omgewingsvriendelike olyfolieprodukte (Sasha Do No Harm) wat nie op diere getoets word nie. ‘n Gedeelte van die wins word gebruik om die oewerkonyn te bewaar. Van haar vorige boeke sluit in Webs of Enchantment en Daar is kewers in my ruggraat.

Skaarser-as-skaarste oewerkonyn

Book details


Rarest Riverine Rabbit

Ayòbámi Adébáyò confirmed for South African Book Fair

The South African Book Development Council has announced that the South African Book Fair will be hosting Ayòbámi Adébáyò, recently shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Prize for her remarkable debut novel, Stay with Me. Ayòbámi will join the SABF 2017 for several sessions: book-club reads; discussions on creating spaces for women’s fiction; and readings from a work in progress.

The oraganisers of the South African Book Fair (SABF) 2017 hope to engage with the following questions:

What are the narratives that move us as a continent? Are these the same for all Africans? Would reading each other’s stories change our outlook fundamentally? Would it nudge us towards a different future? Perhaps, even, a new vision of the African continent?

To get the ball rolling, SABF 2017 has invited key African writers and literary producers to participate in these debates, including:

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, founder of Cassava Republic Press – one of the continent’s most industrious and successful publishing houses – will participate in mapping ways in which we might grow the African book market.

Lola Shoneyin, founder of the ground-breaking Ake Arts & Book Festival in Lagos, will participate in discussions about the state of democracy and, importantly, the lives and future of women in Africa.

Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ (co-founder of the Cornell-Kiswahili Prize) and Billy Kahora (managing editor of Kwani, the publication of the Kenyan-based literary network and advocacy trust), will engage with us and each other about reading and books, and the future of these on the African continent.

It’s all happening at the 8-10 September 2017, Museum Africa, Newtown, Johannesburg.

Stay With Me

Book details

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

Published in the Sunday Times

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

Book details

Alan Paton Award shortlist: Dikgang Moseneke talks about his memoir My Own Liberator

Published in the Sunday Times

My Own LiberatorMy Own Liberator: A Memoir
Dikgang Moseneke (Picador Africa)

Could you expand on the title “My Own Liberator”?
The title “My Own Liberator” anticipates the core theme of the memoir which is the place of individual and collective agency in a challenging or even oppressive life experience.

You were sent to Robben Island at the age of 15, having already suffered torture and solitary confinement. You served 10 years on the island, enduring appalling cruelty. What was the source of your resilience?
Resilience is always a product of several and combined factors. The first is, of course, upbringing. In my childhood my family, and in particular my grandfather and grandmother taught the value of perseverance in the face of pain or severe challenge. Secondly, my parents demanded hard work, honesty and a focus on good outcomes. “Be good,” they often demanded. This was particularly so when the homework was difficult or work in the family garden was arduous. Lastly, many senior leaders on Robben Island inspired me to continue to sacrifice in order to help dislodge apartheid and create an equal and just society.

You refer, however, to the “joy” of incarceration on the Island. Can you explain that?
We as a collective of prisoners on Robben Island took the sting out of our imprisonment. We demanded and succeeded to engage in beneficial activity like studying, reading, writing, singing, attending political classes and playing soccer and rugby in a manner that helped us escape the rigour of the deprivation of incarceration. We also firmed up our conviction that apartheid will collapse. That was a matter of enormous hope and “joy”.

Why were you drawn to study law?
I suppose my trial in the Supreme Court as a child made me come close to law even though it was by accident. Also many historical revolutionaries tended to be trained in law.

You had strong role models growing up. Who were your heroes when you were young?
My mother and father, so too my maternal grandfather and grandmother. I had wonderful primary school teachers who I write about in My Own Liberator. Even in my youth at secondary school I was impressed by the blinding thoughtfulness of the writings of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe on African humanism and liberation in our lifetime.

And now?
I struggle to find appropriate role models now. I certainly have no political role model across the world. I suppose I am getting old and cynical. I admire a handful of progressive writers across all cultures and continents.

Towards the end of the book you pose the painful question “Was our democratic transition all in vain?” How do you answer that?
My answer was decidedly that the push for democratic and social transition was not in vain. Our current governance and economic challenges can never make colonialism and apartheid and more palatable.

What do you believe are the greatest challenges we are facing now in South Africa, and how should they be tackled?
There are many threats to our democratic project; chief of which being social distance and economic inequality. Too many of us are poor and without relevant education or skills. Many vital norms and values that animated our struggle for democracy appear to have been neglected by the ruling elite, some business leaders and sections of our population. The notions of equal worth such as non-racism and gender equality are under severe stress and there is a real threat to some public institutions of our democracy. Our nation is in desperate need for a re-energised and unifying vision.

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