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Launch: The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa (26 October)

Blesser n. [pronounced blessa] a person (usually male and married) who sponsors a younger woman with luxury gifts or a luxurious lifestyle in exchange for a short- to medium-term sexual relationship.

Blessee n. [pronounced blessi] a person (usually female) who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, sometimes married partner in return for sexual favours.

When you are accustomed to the finer things in life – designer shoes, champagne, VIP lounges, exotic holidays abroad, a luxury penthouse, expensive wheels – what independent young woman in her right mind would want to let them go? Certainly not the beautiful, ambitious and super-streetsmart Bontle Tau, the girl who has used her good looks and winning charm all her life to get exactly what she wants.

The lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, though, nor does maintaining the body that allows it (just ask Dr Heinz at the beauty clinic). Luckily, Bontle has a degree in MENcology, and there is no shortage of blessers at her penthouse door, eager to give her all the love and (financial) support she needs. Papa Jeff might be overweight and getting on a bit, and receiving some unwanted attention from the Hawks; and Teddy might not have fully come through for her on that messed-up tender business; but Mr Emmanuel, the Nigerian businessman with deep pockets and the possibility of conferring second wife status … could that be love?

Keeping all her boyfriends happy and living a fabulous life is not without its challenges. With so many people clamouring for Bontle’s attention – from her shebeen queen mother Gladys in Mamelodi, who is taking strain bringing up her teenaged brother, Golokile, on her own; to her girlfriends, Iris and Tsholo; not to mention her soon-to-be ex-husband, the ever-patient, ever-loving Ntokozo, Bontle barely has time to post on Instagram these days.

Sooner or later something’s got to give …

Angela Makholwa lives and works in Johannesburg. The Blessed Girl is her highly anticipated fourth novel, following on from the bestselling Red Ink (2007), The 30th Candle (2009) and Black Widow Society (2013).

 

The Blessed Girl

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Watch the promo for the first title in Helen Brain's Elevation trilogy

16 year old Ebba has never known life outside the underground bunker known as the Colony.

In a sudden twist of fate she is elevated to join the elite who enjoy life on the surface in a post-apocalyptic world. But why was she saved and who is the mysterious great aunt who has left her a fortune?

The High Priest and his handsome son Hal are especially keen to keep her close, but things are not as they seem. When Ebba learns she has a sacred task to find four lost amulets so that Theia, the Earth Goddess, can regain power and save the Earth from a second and final Calamity, her life changes forever.

The first title in a fast-paced dystopian fiction trilogy set in a futuristic Cape Town.

Helen Brain was born in Perth and grew up in Durban. She has written over 50 books for children and young adults, as well as a memoir for adults entitled Here Be Lions. Her teen novel, Tamara won an ATKV prize in 1998. She teaches part time at an international online writing college. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and two dogs.

Elevation 1

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Jacket Notes: Maxine Case tells of why she needed to write about her ancestors and their lives as slaves in a Softness of the Lime

Published in the Sunday Times

Softness of the LimeSoftness of the Lime
Maxine Case, Umuzi

As a descendant of slaves, this was a story I always wanted to write. My grandmother’s grandmother was born to a slave and her master. “But theirs was a real relationship,” Ma, my grandmother, insisted. “He loved her.” Even though I was quite young when I first heard the story, I always wondered about this. I wondered further when Ma admitted that this master had a wife, and children from that marriage.

“She grew up in their home,” Ma offered, as if this was proof. “The family was quite fond of her.”

“Then why didn’t they free her?” I demanded.

“Those were different times then,” Ma said. “They took care of her, even after the old man died.”

From Ma and her cousins, I heard how the family supported my great-grandmother Johanna financially. Ma or one of her cousins would call at the house in Wynberg to collect their grandmother’s living allowance. The building burnt down years later, and all I had was Ma and her cousins’ word.

But there was something else – real proof of his love for her and her descendants, according to Ma and others in the family who repeated the tale. The proof was inscribed into the cover of a yellowwood Bible and later, in the form of a newspaper cutting from the Sunday Times of September 2, 1973.

According to this article, “Bantjes millions: now Coloureds stake claim”, this man had placed a fortune in gold to be inherited by his descendants 100 years after his death.

The article confirmed my family’s claim. It confirmed that with many of her children living as white under apartheid, Johanna destroyed all evidence pointing to this slave heritage.

I often wondered why Ma held her slave ancestry in such high esteem – especially when so many people, South African or not, denied theirs. From Ma’s stories, I too became proud of my slave heritage.

Shoving that yellowing Sunday Times cutting at me from time to time, and telling me where to look, Ma encouraged me to write the “real” story of Lena and Geert, insisting that we were born out of love and not abuse, as is commonly believed. But could it be love?

Researching this book, I don’t believe so. As much proof as I found to substantiate Ma’s claims, much was negated. So, while in writing this book I took the liberties of fiction, I hope that ultimately, by reimagining their worlds, I’ve succeeded in portraying what life under slavery at the Cape might have been like.

Sadly, Ma didn’t live to see this book published.

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Private tragedy is now national tragedy: Salman Rushdie tells Michele Magwood why he wrote his latest novel The Golden House

Michele Magwood finds Salman Rushdie on fine and furious form in his latest novel. The Golden House is a glorious fusion of knowing social commentary and compelling mystery, packed with wit and cultural references. She spoke to him in New York.

The Golden HouseThe Golden House
Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape
*****

In Salman Rushdie’s previous novel, the antic, phantasmagorical Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, the city of New York is overcome by “strangenesses” – lightning crackles from fingers, a gentle old gardener begins to levitate, an abandoned baby causes boils to erupt on the faces of anyone who is corrupt. In his new novel, however, there is none of his trademark supernatural fancies or magical realism. Instead he has written an up-to-the-minute, drenched-in-zeitgeist panorama of New York and America. This time, the strangeness is real.

“When I finished writing Two Years I thought this probably pushes this kind of writing as far as it can go, so I thought I’d try to write a very different novel, a realist social novel about the last decade or so.”

Rushdie is speaking from his home in New York, where he has lived for the last 17 years, the city that has enabled him to live what he calls “a perfectly normal life”, after the many years of hiding in the UK with a fatwa hanging over him. He said he chose New York because it reminded him of his hometown Bombay with its noise and bustle, but also because it is a place of re-invention. “Everybody comes from somewhere else.”

In The Golden House a man arrives in the city with his three grown sons. They arrive on the day that Barack Obama is elected, a time of optimism, “when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess”.

They seem to come from nowhere, or anywhere. There is no sign of a wife or mother, but it is clear they are stupefyingly wealthy. The men take outlandish new names for themselves. The father is Nero Julius Golden, the eldest son Petronius, known as Petya, the second Lucius Apuleius, or Apu, and the youngest Dionysus, or simply “D”. “Who should we say we are?” the boys ask their father. “Tell them nothing. Tell them we are snakes who shed our skins,” Nero says.

The novel may be sharply contemporary, but there is something ancient to the story. “In Greek and Roman tragic plays we know from the beginning that some terrible calamity is about to befall these characters and then it hits them. In this book the reader quite rapidly understands that this family is hiding something serious, and you know that secret is going to blow up in their faces. So in that sense it has the shape of a classical tragedy.”

Notes of foreboding are sounded early on by the narrator, a young filmmaker named René who lives in the same moneyed, sylvan enclave as the Goldens and who decides to make a film about them. Buried in the narrative, a clever mise en abyme, is his script for the documentary.

The fuse is lit when the septuagenarian Nero takes a young Russian bride, Vasilisa. Beautiful of course, just 28 years old, but with a preternatural cunning. This being Rushdie, he has her harbouring, Alien-like, the rapacious witch Baba Yaga. Nero’s sons are dismayed.

The doomed Golden sons channel the dark materials of Rushdie’s current preoccupations: Petya is a lumpen alcoholic, a shut-in savant who designs video games. Apu is a gifted artist, handsome, priapic and fashionable with the Manhattan élite, “famous on 20 blocks.” And then there is D, painfully gender-confused.

Here’s Apu loose on the town: “He followed a Canal Street Kabbalist named Idel, who was adept in the ways of the forbidden Practical Kabbalah, which sought through the use of white magic to affect and change the sphere of the divine itself… he also went eagerly… into the world of Buddhist Judaism, and meditated along with the city’s growing cohorts of ‘BuJus’ – classical composers, movies stars, yogis.”

This is Rushdie at his Dickensian best: keen-eyed, plucking shining observations from the streets like a magpie. His treatment of the troubled D is more sober, however, as he assays the field of gender identity. “The more I dug into it and talked to people I realised how much hair-splitting hostility there is between people who 99% of the time would be on the same side.”

D is depressed by the choices he is being forced to make: “You could be TG, TS, TV, CD. Whatever feels right to you.” Transgender, transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser. None feels right to him and on they go. If he doesn’t identify as male or female, there is ze, ey, hir, xe, hen, ve, ne, per, thon or Mx. As one gender worker says regretfully, “My field should be a safe, soft space for understanding and instead it’s a warzone.”

Rushdie is at his most damning, though, at the end of the book when a new president is elected. This is the age of fake news, truthiness, bawling rhetoric. It is the age of grotesques and comic characters in power – a green-haired cartoon Joker is in charge. The times are toxic.

As René says: “What does one do when the world one believes in turns out to be a paper moon and a dark planet rises and says, No, I am the world… when your fellow Americans tell you that knowing things is elitist and they hate elites, and all you have ever had is your mind and you were brought up to believe in the loveliness of knowledge… and then all of that, education, art, music, film becomes a reason for being loathed, and the creature out of Spiritus Mundi rises up and slouches toward Washington DC, to be born.”

Yes, this time Rushdie’s strangenesses are real.

“The story of the Goldens is a private tragedy surrounded by what is turning into a national tragedy,” he sighs. “I think that’s really in a way what the book is trying to say.”

Follow @michelemagwood

Listen to Michele and Salman’s conversation here

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Launch: The Lion & The Thespian by David Bloomberg (27 September)

Margaretha van Hulsteyn (also known as Scrappy) is the daughter of respected Pretoria attorney Sir Willem van Hulsteyn, and she’s an aspiring actress. While studying in London after the Great War, Scrappy changes her name to Marda Vanne and enters into a relationship with one of the foremost actresses of her day, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies.

However, on a visit to her parents in the Union of South Africa, Marda meets Hans Strydom, an attorney and uncompromising radical politician with the soubriquet ‘The Lion of the North’. Their meeting changes the course of her life, at least temporarily… Strydom went on to become a principal progenitor of the harshest discriminatory legislation which endured for decades until his nephew, President FW de Klerk, in a volte-face, dismantled the laws of apartheid.

A work of biographical fiction, The Lion & The Thespian is based on the true story of the marriage of Hans Strydom, prime minister of South Africa from 1954 to 1958, to the actress Marda Vanne. Veteran author David Bloomberg (former executive mayor of Cape Town, and founder of Metropolitan Life), following extensive reading and research, has adhered faithfully to the chronology of the lives of the main protagonists, their personalities and the historical facts with which they were associated. Creative license has allowed Bloomberg to recreate appropriate scenes and dialogue, complemented by reported sources and recorded speeches.


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The Magwood on Books podcast with Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is on fine and furious form in his latest novel The Golden House, set in contemporary New York. Here he talks about the influence of Dickens, how his characters reveal themselves to him and life under a cartoon president. Listen to their conversation here:

 

The Golden House

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