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Verandah lunch with Vanessa Raphaely, author of Plus One (29 November)

The Book Revue invites you to lunch on the verandah with Vanessa Raphaely, author of Plus One.

Raphaely’s long career in women’s media included years in London, where she launched and edited a major health and beauty magazine, and in South Africa, where she was the multi-award-winning editor of Cosmopolitan and long-time content director of Associated Media, publisher of O, Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, amongst others. Vanessa currently lives in Cape Town. Plus One is her debut novel.

Plus One is an exciting novel set in the fast living world of magazines and the jet set. This glamorous life comes at a price and as the friend to a gorgeous and up and coming film star, Lisa Lassiter has to learn to play second fiddle.

It’s a well written and exciting story with a twist in the tail and we promise you, you will be hooked. Perfect holiday reading!

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Cor Dirks se Wadda van die woestyn is weer terug op die rakke!


“Weer neurie die kind lispelend en vervelig herhaalde kere sy liedjie sodat Koestertjie, lamgeslaan soos sy daar staan, tot haar verbasing sien dat die slang sy bolyf laat sak totdat hy plat op die grond in al sy kronkelinge voor die kind lê. ’n Vuil handjie word uitgestrek en net as dit aan die skubberige rug wil vat, pluk die reptiel homself weer orent en word die bak dreigend platgemaak. Dit is tog te mooi. Die laggie dawer deur die lug en dan word daar maar weer gesing. Weer bedaar die slang.”

Wadda van die woestyn verskyn oorspronklik in 1950. In die roman word ’n wit driejarige seuntjie deur Boesmans, Boogspan en sy vrou, Koestertjie, aangeneem nadat die skip waarop hy, sy tweelingboetie en hulle ouers reis byna op die rotse loop. Wadda (’n verdraaiing van sy doopnaam “Waldo”) toon ’n besondere aanvoeling vir en beheer oor die plante- en dierelewe van die Namib-woestyn. Wanneer hy ouer word, word hy ’n leier en legende onder die inheemse bevolking.

Die verhaal neem ’n onverwagse wending wanneer Wadda ’n soekgeselskap, op soek na legendariese skatte, teëkom en uitvind waar hy werklik vandaan kom.

Cor Dirks is op 28 Februarie 1911 op ’n plaas naby Volksrust gebore Vanaf 1929 bekwaam hy homself as onderwyser aan die Potchefstroomse Universiteitskollege en Potchefstroomse Normaalkollege. Hy verwerf verder ’n MA in Geskiedenis in 1937. Dirks is bekend vir sy jeugverhale, veral die gewilde Uile-reeks. Hy skryf egter ook avontuur- en speurverhale, soos byvoorbeeld Wadda van die woestyn. Hy is op 15 Oktober 2000 oorlede.


Peet Venter se nuwe riller ondersoek of daar perke is aan die wreedheid van mense wat glo hulle is verhewe bo die wet...

Is daar perke aan die wreedheid van mense wat glo hulle is verhewe bo die wet?

“’n Sedelose vrou is soos ’n diep waterkuil. ’n Verleidster is soos ’n put waaruit jy nie kan kom nie. Eers was daar een. Toe was daar twee. Nou is daar drie.”

Die stem wat laatnag met speur-adjudant Jaap Helberg, beter bekend as Boel, oor die foon praat, is skor en die elokusie dik soos iemand met ernstige laringitis en ’n verstopte neus.

Die moordenaar hou van raaiselspeletjies. Hy bel Helberg met die slagoffer se selfoon, vertel hom waar hy haar lyk kan kry en stuur vir hom ’n video van hoe sy vermoor word.

Hierdie is sy derde slagoffer. Volgens die moordenaar is die ander twee “in ’n verlate, stil en skemer plek. In donker water wat nooit son sien nie. Daar is ou masjiene, reuse-bloekombome en ’n groot swart kruis wat met die son kom en gaan.”

In sy ondersoek kom Helberg af op ’n sindikaat wat met diamante smokkel en hoewel die twee sake drasties verskil, is hulle op ’n manier geknoop. In die makabere klimaks waarop dit uitloop skiet iemand vir Boel.


Holly Ringland's debut novel is a carefully woven coming-of-age story, writes Jennifer Platt

Holly Ringland, whose debut novel is a carefully woven coming-of-age story. Picture: Supplied

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart *****
Holly Ringland, Pan Books, R175

“In the weatherboard house at the end of the lane, nine-year-old Alice Hart sat at her desk by the window and dreamed of ways to set her father on fire.”

This is the gripping first sentence of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. It’s Holly Ringland’s debut novel. The breathtaking cover of arresting native Australian flowers matches the carefully woven coming-of-age story. Every chapter features a drawing of a particular indigenous Australian plant with an explanation of the meaning of the flower. Black Fire Orchid means “desire to possess”, Flannel flowers mean “what is lost is found”, and Foxtails mean “blood of my blood”.

In turn these meanings become the foreshadowing of Alice’s mostly unhappy life. Young Alice lives in isolation with her mother and her abusive, obsessively jealous father whose “eyes turn black with rage”. She has seen no one besides her parents – they stay far from the madding crowd in a cottage near the sea and sugarcane fields. The only relief she has is her beach that she considers her refuge, her books and her dog Toby.

Then fire does come and consumes all that Alice knows. Injured and unable to talk, she has to go and live with June, a grandmother she never knew she had. June takes her to Thornfield, an indigenous flower farm that is inland, far away from Alice’s beloved sea.

Here Alice heals and learns about the meaning of flowers that surround her and who the dungareed Flowers are; the gentle women that her gran has taken in who happily spend days in the fields tending the precious blooms. But no matter how hard June tries and how many times Alice asks her, June can’t get herself to tell her the horrible truth about Clem, her father.

Alice, now 26 years old, learns sharply about betrayal. She flees the farm and ends up at Kililpitjara National Park where the sacred Sturt’s Desert Peas grow. This strange blood red plant’s meaning is “have courage, take heart”. Unprotected and raw, Alice finds herself in the same situation as her mother and has to find the fortitude to leave.

Ringland, who says she grew up wild and barefoot in her mother’s garden in northern Australia, not only delivers a modern fairytale with poignancy, sadness and most importantly hope, she gives a rare insight to the wondrous and different landscapes that Australia has to offer that is more than just dusty deserts, wild dingoes, nosy neighbours and surfer dudes. @Jenniferdplatt

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Alexander McCall Smith's latest novel a web of mild desire, observation, constraint, delicacy and discreet disruption, writes Ken Barris

The Quiet Side of Passion ****
Alexander McCall Smith, Little Brown, R265

The Quiet Side of Passion is one of Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels. Isabel is a mom, spouse, editor of a philosophical journal, and an incurable busybody. She is married to the gentlest, kindest, most humorous musician of a husband, Jamie, who loses his temper only once in the novel, and then very mildly.

He also turns down his chance to say “I told you so”. They share their house with their young children Magnus and Charlie, who are more seen than heard, which is a good thing because they are not convincing.

More to the point, Isabel’s life is shared with a cast of several: her self-centred niece Cat, the comically dour housekeeper Grace, the annoying Professor Lettuce, and certain strangers and newcomers who drive the story, insofar as there is one.

I went through a few transformations on reading this novel. Initially, enjoyment – there is much to enjoy in the form of elegant writing and lightly intelligent humour, agreeable and mostly well-drawn characters, and Isabel’s strange mixture of constant self-questioning, self-restraint, and impulsiveness.

Quiet Side is also that old-fashioned thing, a novel of manners. The characters are enmeshed in a network of restrictive social mores, defined (in an undefined way) by what one does and doesn’t do; it is a relief that Isabel sometimes does what one doesn’t. Though set in Edinburgh, it is really a portrait of English middle-class conventionality.

Later on, I began to think of it as Jane Austen Lite. A delicate web of mild desire, observation, constraint, delicacy and discreet disruption, unfortunately more quiet than passionate. Then with 76 pages to go, I began to wonder what it was about.

The nuts and bolts of the tale are provided by strangers and newcomers.

Claire Richardson is Isabel’s new editorial assistant. She is beautiful, but rather too strongly linked with Professor Lettuce, who is wont to intrude unwanted on Isabel’s editorial duties.

Antonia is the new Italian au pair. She is vivacious and full of enterprise, especially when it comes to men.

Isabel meets Patricia, a mother she encounters at young Charlie’s school, who both intrigues and annoys her. There are two threatening men who give Isabel a bad turn each, and there is Leo, Cat’s leonine boyfriend, who saves the day.

The plot revolves around Isabel’s interaction with these characters.

Claire turns out to be unsuitable, and soon so does Antonia, both for reasons of highly unsuitable love. They are dismissed without playing a major role in the narrative, though they take up a fair amount of space. Isabel learns that Patricia claims child maintenance from a man who might not be the father of her child. Being incurable, Isabel is driven to solve this mystery, which generates most of the fizz in the tale, though things go – well, not quite horribly wrong, just wrong.

Hence my puzzlement with 76 pages to go. The various threads were woven together (or almost together) deftly enough, and even at this point, I was confident that a satisfactory conclusion would be reached. And in fact it was – all mysteries were solved, threats vanquished, and a happy ending trotted out at the last minute. But I wasn’t sure that it added up to anything entirely coherent or worth saying, other than all’s well that ends well.

Despite this, I found the book entertaining and its understated humour diverting. For holiday reading or relief from our force-fed diet of political angst, The Quiet Side of Passion is highly recommended.

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Book Bites: 11 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Mirror Cracked ***
Raashida Khan, Kwarts, R250

Azraa Hassim has the perfect life: successful career, a loving husband and two wonderful daughters. Her entire identity, however, is put to question when one of her children is diagnosed with a terminal illness, while her husband’s secrets come out of the closet. Khan has created a narrative that bluntly tackles subjects that are often considered taboo in Muslim society. A book whose strength lies in the conversations that it ignites after the final page is read. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

War on Peace ****
Ronan Farrow, HarperCollins, R320

Well-known investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow has written a must-read for 2018 and beyond. Farrow investigates the effects that the changes in US foreign policy have had on the world. Although there are many personal stories interspersed between the revelations, the decline of international diplomacy that Farrow argues is certainly not overshadowed. Farrow contends that Bill Clinton’s focus on domestic affairs, a policy that was accelerated by US presidents after him, has neglected foreign policy and state departments across the globe. War on Peace is loaded with information and may take a while to absorb, but it’s a critical read to help understand the current state of international affairs. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

An American Story *****
Christopher Priest, Gollancz, R350

Remember being glued to the television on 9/11 as the twin towers crashed down? Most of us probably accept the official line on what happened and why. I’m an old cynic, and inclined to dismiss conspiracy theories, so a book that bases its premise on them has to be pretty good to beguile me. And An American Story is very good indeed. Set in the near future, where science journalist Ben Matson lives with his wife and kids in an independent Scotland, the story moves backwards and forwards between that time and shortly before 9/11 when Ben had an American girlfriend who died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. But did American Airways flight 77 really end up there, and did she really die on it? Christopher Priest builds a sense of deep unease – much more effective than edge-of-the-seat terror – as Ben struggles to make sense of what happened, in this intelligent and thought-provoking novel. Margaret von Klemperer

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