Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Book Bites: 27 August 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

The Age of GeniusThe Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind
AC Grayling, Bloomsbury
Book buff
****
The book of the year for history buffs and closet philosophers. The question at the centre is: how did the events of the 17th century radically alter the way people thought about the world and their place in it? Grayling offers a detailed yet riveting account of the history of ideas; how ideologies transformed despite – or because of – the tumultuous events of the 1600s. The 17th century is known for its battles between Catholics and Protestants, and Catholicism and science. But it was also a triumphant time that gave rise to, among many other things, the postal service. – Anna Stroud @annawriter_

A Fast Ride out of HereA Fast Ride out of Here: Confessions Of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man
Pete Way
, Constable
Book real
***

Pete Way is a colourful character who played bass for ’70s rockers UFO and a number of other bands. In his day he was capable of – as detailed throughout this book’s 250 or so pages – ingesting enough drugs and alcohol to make even Keith Richards arch a concerned eyebrow. It’s a direct, old-fashioned sex and drugs and rock ’n roll tell-all. It entertains and frustrates in equal measure – Way’s lackadaisical “that’s just how I was” attitude to his excesses and the pain he caused often comes across as selfishness rather than as a request for the leeway sometimes required by an artistic nature. – Bruce Dennill @BroosDennill

Book details

Launch: Rule of Law by Glynnis Breytenbach (30 August)

Over a legal career spanning 26 years, advocate Glynnis Breytenbach earned a reputation as one of the country’s most formidable state prosecutors, her infamous stare piercing the defences of many. Now a member of parliament and the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for justice, Glynnis finally shares how her life in and out of court shaped her into the outspoken, sometimes hard-headed, always principled woman she is, and the public figure she never wanted to be.

In Rule of Law, Glynnis provides personal commentary on the evolution and importance of an independent judiciary in South Africa, and explains why the rule of law is critical to the foundation and the future of the country. Her account offers fascinating insights, a critical analysis of some of South Africa’s recent legal and political cliffhangers, and a suggestion as to how the law can help us find a way forward as a country.

‘I was always impressed with the fairness and high level of integrity shown by Glynnis. But, above all, I like the fire in her. She truly has fire in her belly.’ – VUSI PIKOLI

Event Details

In Rule of Law, Glynnis Breytenbach provides personal commentary on the importance of an independent judiciary in South Africa

Rule of LawOver a legal career spanning 26 years, advocate Glynnis Breytenbach earned a reputation as one of the country’s most formidable state prosecutors, her infamous stare piercing the defences of many. Now a member of parliament and the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for justice, Glynnis finally shares how her life in and out of court shaped her into the outspoken, sometimes hard-headed, always principled woman she is, and the public figure she never wanted to be.

In Rule of Law, Glynnis provides personal commentary on the evolution and importance of an independent judiciary in South Africa, and explains why the rule of law is critical to the foundation and the future of the country. Her account offers fascinating insights, a critical analysis of some of South Africa’s recent legal and political cliffhangers, and a suggestion as to how the law can help us find a way forward as a country.

‘I was always impressed with the fairness and high level of integrity shown by Glynnis. But, above all, I like the fire in her. She truly has fire in her belly.’ – VUSI PIKOLI


 

Book details

Watch Trevor Noah's acceptance speech for the Booksellers' Choice Award

The Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award this year went to Trevor Noah for his memoir Born a Crime and other stories, published by Pan Macmillan. Noah was not present to receive the prize at the convivial awards evening on the 22 August, however his publishers were there, bursting with pride. Andrea Nattrass, Noah’s publisher at Pan Macmillan had arranged for him to record a short acceptance speech, which was shared with the audience at the awards. Noah thanked booksellers, publishers and the sponsors Nielsen Book for the award, along with his English teacher who inspired him to read.

Watch Trevor’s speech here.

PS – Trevor has also been shortlisted for the Thurber Prize for American Humor!

Born A Crime

Book details

"Not allowing myself to be classified by others has been crucial in working out my own identity" - Sara-Jayne King on Killing Karoline

Killing Karoline deals with important topical issues relating to adoption, identity, race, mental health and addiction.

Born Karoline King in 1980 in Johannesburg South Africa, Sara-Jayne (as she will later be called by her adoptive parents) is the result of an affair, illegal under apartheid’s Immorality Act, between a white British woman and a black South African man. Her story reveals the shocking lie created to cover up the forbidden relationship, and the hurried overseas adoption of the illegitimate baby, born during one of history’s most inhumane and destructive regimes.

Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl (categorised as ‘white’ under South Africa’s race classification system) who is raised in a leafy, middle-class corner of the South of England by a white couple. It takes the reader through her formative years, a difficult adolescence and into adulthood, as Sara-Jayne (Karoline) seeks to discover who she is and where she came from.

Plagued by questions surrounding her own identity and unable to ‘fit in’ Sara-Jayne begins to turn on herself. She eventually returns to South Africa, after 26 years, to face her demons. There she is forced to face issues of identity, race, rejection and belonging beyond that which she could ever have imagined. She must also face her birth family, who in turn must confront what happens when the baby you kill off at a mere six weeks old returns from the dead.

Sara-Jayne King is a mixed-race South African/British journalist and radio presenter whose career spans over a decade and has taken her across the globe in search of remarkable stories and fascinating characters. While studying for an LLB degree in the UK, Sara-Jayne realised her passion lay elsewhere and, after graduating, she went on to complete a Master’s in Journalism in 2004. Her career began as a junior journalist in local radio in London and since then has included roles in the Middle East and Africa, most recently as a senior editor for news channel eNCA and presenter for Primedia’s talk radio station Cape Talk.

Here Sara discusses the ramifications of apartheid, South Africans’ innate need to classify, and the necessity of not allowing herself to be defined by others for 1001 South African Stories:

Book details

15 local and international eBooks to enjoy this August

Fiction:

The Good Daughter
Karin Slaughter

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney – devastated.

And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

House of Spies
Daniel Silva

“Written by one of our greatest living spy novelists, House of Spies gives us protagonist Gabriel Allon in his 17th adventure. The novel features Silva’s taut and compelling dialogue and keen insight into the human psyche.” – Dallas Morning News
 
 
 
The Silent Corner
Dean Koontz

A gripping new standalone thriller from the master of suspense and New York Times #1 bestselling author.

‘I very much need to be dead.’

These are the chilling last words left by a man who had everything to live for but took his own life. In the void that remains stands his widow, FBI agent Jane Hawk, determined to do what all the grief and fury inside her demand: find the truth, no matter what.

People of talent, seemingly happy and sound of mind, have recently been committing suicide in surprising numbers. A disturbing pattern is beginning to emerge. Jane is determined to give up everything to find out why.

Those arrayed against her are devoted to protecting something important or terrifying enough to exterminate anyone in their way. But Jane is as clever as these enemies are cold-blooded. And she is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.

The Last Secret of the Deverills
Santa Montefiore

It is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.

Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother.

But instead she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.

Bridie Doyle, now Countess DI Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, are determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to them start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.

Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband, Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere. This summer discover the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Deverill Chronicles.

The Secrets She Keeps
Michael Robotham

In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of the secrets some women hold close and a shocking act that cannot be undone, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.

The Late Show
Michael Connelly

A compelling thriller introducing a driven, young detective trying to prove herself in the LAPD.

Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night.

As the cases entwine they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job no matter what the department throws at her.

Light Touch
Stephen Leather

Working undercover is all about trust, getting the target to trust you and then betraying them in order to bring them to justice.

But what do you do when you believe an undercover cop has crossed the line and aligned herself with the international drugs smuggler she was supposed to be targeting?

When a deep-undercover cop stops passing on intelligence about her target, MI5 sends in Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd to check that she is on the straight and narrow.

Now two lives are on the line and Shepherd discovers that the real danger is closer to home than he realised.

As Spider finds his loyalties being tested to the limit, an SAS killer is on a revenge mission in London and only Spider can stop him.

Tin Man
Sarah Winman

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael, who are inseparable.

And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives and it changes nothing and everything.

Tin Man sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvellous Ways with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.

Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed

Never Let Me Go meets The Giver in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers – chosen male descendants of the original ten – are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly–they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

Non-fiction:

The Assassination of King Shaka: Zulu History’s Dramatic Moment
John Laband

In this riveting new book, John Laband, pre-eminent historian of the Zulu Kingdom, tackles some of the questions that swirl around the assassination in 1828 of King Shaka, the celebrated founder of the Zulu Kingdom and war leader of legendary brilliance: Why did prominent members of the royal house conspire to kill him? Just how significant a part did the white hunter-traders settled at Port Natal play in their royal patron’s downfall? Why were Shaka’s relations with the British Cape Colony key to his survival? And why did the powerful army he had created acquiesce so tamely in the usurpation of the throne by Dingane, his half-brother and assassin?

In his search for answers Laband turns to the Zulu voice heard through recorded oral testimony and praise-poems, and to the written accounts and reminiscences of the Port Natal trader-hunters and the despatches of Cape officials. In the course of probing and assessing this evidence the author vividly brings the early Zulu kingdom and its inhabitants to life. He throws light on this elusive character of and his own unpredictable intentions, while illuminating the fears and ambitions of those attempting to prosper and survive in his hazardous kingdom: a kingdom that nevertheless endured in all its essential characteristics, particularly militarily, until its destruction fifty one years later in 1879 by the British; and whose fate, legend has it, Shaka predicted with his dying breath.

Hitmen for Hire: Exposing South Africa’s Underground
Mark Shaw

When you next sit down at your local coffee shop, look around you: there may just be a professional hitman sitting at the next table. As author Mark Shaw reveals in this highly original and informative book, the ‘upper world’ sails perilously close to the underworld.

Hitmen for Hire takes the reader on a journey like no other, navigating a world of hammermen (hitmen), informers, rogue policemen, taxi bosses, gang leaders and crooked businessmen. The book examines a system in which contract killings have become the norm, looking at who arranges hits, where to find a hitman, and even what it is like to be a hitman – or woman.

Since 1994, South Africa has witnessed some spectacular underworld killings associated with various industries and sectors. Drawing on over a thousand cases, from 2000 to 2016, Shaw reveals how these murders have an outsized impact on the evolution of both legal and illegal economic activity.

Fate of the Nation: 3 Scenarios for South Africa’s Future
Jakkie Cilliers

What does our future hold? Will the ANC split within the next five years? Could the DA rule the country in 2024? Will the EFF form an alliance with the ANC? What should we do to make our economy grow at levels that will impact on poverty and inequality? Will we become a more tolerant or a more violent society?

In Fate of the Nation scenario expert Jakkie Cilliers answers all these and many other questions. He has developed three detailed scenarios for our immediate future and beyond – Bafana Bafana, Nation Divided and Mandela Magic.

According to Cilliers the ANC is in many ways paralysed by the power struggle between what he calls the Traditionalists (supporters of Jacob Zuma) and the Reformers (led by Cyril Ramaphosa and others). This power struggle leads to policy confusion, poor leadership and general ineptitude in the civil service.

Key to which scenario will become our reality is who will be elected to the ANC’s top leadership at their national conference in December 2017. Whichever group wins will determine what our future holds. We could also see a compromise grouping being selected, Cilliers says, in which case the Bafana Bafana scenario – where we simply muddle along as a country – is the strongest possibility.

A book for all concerned South Africans.

A Short History of South Africa
Gail Nattrass

In A Short History of South Africa, Gail Nattrass, historian and educator, presents the reader with a brief, general account of South Africa’s history, from the very beginning to the present day, from the first evidence of hominid existence, early settlement pre- and post-European arrival and the warfare through the 18th and 19th centuries that lead to the eventual establishment of modern South Africa.

This readable and thorough account, illustrated with maps and photographs, is a culmination of a lifetime of researching and teaching the broad spectrum of South African history, collecting stories, taking students on tours around the country, and working with distinguished historians.

Nattrass’s passion for her subject shines through, whether she is elucidating the reader on early humans in the cradle of humankind, or the tumultuous twentieth-century processes that shaped the democracy that is South Africa today. A must for all those interested in South Africa, within the country and abroad.

The Fifth Mrs Brink: A Memoir
Karina M. Szczurek

The Fifth Mrs Brink is Karina M. Szczurek’s memoir of her life before, during and after her marriage to André P. Brink. Polish-born Karina was twenty-seven when she met the acclaimed writer, forty-two years her senior, and they spent a decade together.

Here she chronicles their relationship, from their first encounter in Vienna, Austria, and moving across continents to be with each other, to finding calm and stability in their married life in Cape Town, and finally facing the challenges of André’s deteriorating health in the last year of his life.

This soul-baring account is also the story of two interwoven writing lives, Karina’s burgeoning and André’s in its final phase. It is a diary of creative dissolution and knitting back together, a homage to a marriage tragically cut short but also to a love to last a lifetime.

Ratels on the Lomba: The Story of Charlie Squadron
Leopold Scholtz

Charlie Squadron – the iron fist of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group (61 Mech) – led the way on 3 October 1987 during the climactic battle between the South African Defence Force and the Angolan forces on the Lomba River in southern Angola. Ratels on the Lomba places the reader in the midst of the squadron of young conscripts who were taken off to the Border War to fight in this battle.

Not only were they up against a vastly superior Angolan force in terms of numbers and weaponry, but they also had to deal with a terrain so dense that their sight was severely impaired and their movement restricted. Also, even though SADF tactical doctrine clearly stated that tanks had to be countered by tanks, these conscripts had to take on the Angolan tanks in armoured cars with inferior low-velocity guns and thin armour, designed to keep out nothing more than small-arms fire.

Yet, during the battle on the Lomba the 47 Brigade of the Angolan forces was nearly wiped out. This blow-by-blow account of a David vs. Goliath battle takes the reader to the heart of the action.

It is honestly told and vividly described, thanks to interviews with veterans and diary entries that help to recreate the drama of the battle. It is also an intensely human story of how individuals react in the face of death and how the war never left them, even when they returned home.

Ook beskikbaar in Afrikaans as Ratels aan die Lomba: Die storie van Charlie-eskadron

Op 3 Oktober 1987 het Charlie-eskadron – die ystervuis van 61 Gemeganiseerde Bataljongroep – die kritieke geveg tussen die Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag en die Angolese magte op die Lombarivier in die suide van Angola gelei. Dié boek plaas die leser in die midde van die groep jong dienspligtiges wat na die Grensoorlog weggevoer is om hierdie geveg te gaan voer.

Op die Lomba het hulle nie net te staan gekom teen ’n Angolese mag met ’n getalsoorwig en beter wapentuig nie, maar ook teen ’n terrein wat so dig bebos was dat hul sig en beweging aansienlik ingeperk is. Die SAW se taktiese doktrine het duidelik gestel dat tenks teen tenks aangewend moes word. Tog moes die dienspligtiges die Angolese tenks aanvat in pantservoertuie met minder kragtige kanonne en dun pantser wat nie veel meer as gewone geweervuur kon afweer nie.

Steeds is 47 Brigade van die Angolese magte amper uitgewis tydens die geveg op die Lomba. Scholtz se beskrywing van hierdie David teen Goliath geveg neem die leser na die hart van die aksie.

Danksy onderhoude met veterane en dagboekinskrywings dra hierdie eerlike, intense hervertelling die volle drama van die geveg oor. Dit is ook ’n diep menslike verhaal oor hoe individue reageer in die aangesig van die dood.