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Karina Szczurek reviews Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Easy Motion TouristVerdict: carrot

From luxurious hotel rooms to the gutters of Lagos, Easy Motion Tourist presents an uneasy, brutal metropolis where only the toughest survive: “a city of armed robbers, assassinations and now, it seemed, ‘ritualists’ had to be added to the list.” But among the ruthless violence and corruption there are rays of light, and Easy Motion Tourist offers an intriguing ending which might mean a promising sequel.

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Check out the programme for this year's Franschhoek Literary Festival!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats from Friday 19 May to Sunday 21 May.

This annual literary festival’s 2017 line-up can only be described as one which skrik’s vir niks.

Festival-goers can expect discussions and debates featuring Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Delusions, in conversation with agricultural economist Tracy Ledger (An Empty Plate) and African diplomacy scholar Oscar van Heerden (Consistent or Confused) on the ever-dividing rift between South Africans; the Sunday Times‘ contributing books editor Michele Magwood asks publishers Phehello Mofokeng (Geko Publishing), Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books) and short story writer Lidudumalingani Mqombothi (recipient of the 2016 Caine Prize Winner for Memories We Lost, published in The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things) whether there’s a shortage of black fiction authors; and poet Rustum Kozain (Groundwork) will discuss Antjie Krog, Lady Anne: A Chronicle in Verse with the acclaimed poet herself.

And that’s just day one!

Find the full programme here.

Tickets are available from www.webtickets.co.za.

 
 

Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

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Groundwork

 

 
 

Lady Anne

 
 
 

An Empty Plate

 
 
 

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories

  • The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 by Caine Prize
    EAN: 9781566560160
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

 
 
 

Consistent or Confused

Book bites: 19 March 2017

The BrotherThe Brother
Joakim Zander (Head of Zeus)
****
Book buff
This novel takes us into a world we read about but never really get to know – the world of Islamic extremists. We get to know Yasmine, a sister determined to find and protect her little brother Fadi; and Klara, a woman determined to find the truth after the death of her colleague. Through his simple yet captivating narration, Zander delivers a story that is intense but never preachy. Each chapter reveals the different layers of the characters’ lives. It’s brilliant. – Thato Rossouw @Thato_Rossouw

A Closed and Common OrbitA Closed And Common Orbit
Becky Chambers (Hodder)
*****
Book fiend
Although this is the second book in a series, it can be enjoyed entirely as a stand-alone story. Sidra is a spacecraft’s artificial intelligence hiding (illegally) in an artificial human body. Pepper is a former child slave helping Sidra find a new life on a multicultural planet, and protecting Sidra the way that the ship’s AI once protected her. The story injects some welcome kindness into its sci-fi tropes and it makes the Wayfarer universe an enjoyable place to spend time. Charming, intelligent, empathetic, and a great deal of fun. – Sam Wilson @wombatsam

The Empathy ProblemThe Empathy Problem
Gavin Extence (Hodder & Stoughton)
****
Book hug
The Empathy Problem is compelling, particularly because it’s by Extence, author of the delightful debut The Universe versus Alex Woods. While I was hooked midway through, the book took some time to catch up to its promise thanks to a strange dependence on short chapters (many of them only a page or two) which stopped me connecting with Gabriel, whose terminal brain tumour takes over his personality. Once he’d wormed his way into my heart, though, I found myself thinking about him throughout the day. Light and lovely, it’s another charming read from Extence. – Bridget McNulty @bridgetmcnulty

Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes
Sarah Pinborough (Harper Collins)
****
Book thrill
This is addictive. As soon as you get to know who the players are in this cat-and-mouse thriller you want to know more about them. There’s Louise, who meets David in a bar. After they kiss, she discovers that he is her new boss who is married. Then she meets his wife Adele and becomes obsessed with this married couple. Louise learns that they don’t have a happy marriage and that Adele is afraid of David. One of the thrillers you have to read this year, the ending is so unexpected it even has its own twitter hashtag: #wtfthatending. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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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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The Magwood on Books podcast with John Boyne

John Boyne’s new novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies chronicles the life of a gay man in Dublin. Here he talks about the hypocrisy of the Catholic church, his determination to write strong female characters and how his deadpan humour serves the story.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Heart's Invisible Furies

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Neurotic noir: William Saunderson-Meyer reviews two chilling crime thrillers

It’s a fiction that most of us are sane most of the time. These two crime novels put psychosis front and centre, writes William Saunderson-Meyer for the Sunday Times

Good Me, Bad MeGood Me Bad Me
Ali Land (Michael Joseph)
*****
 
 
 
 
 
The Ice Beneath HerThe Ice Beneath Her
Camilla Grebe (Zaffre)
*****
A New Zealand study conducted over 44 years recently confirmed that contrary to the complacent assumptions of most of us, robust mental health is actually uncommon.

Fewer than a fifth of people live their lives unafflicted by psychological problems. More than 40% experience one or more mental disorders lasting at least several years.

Given this ubiquity, it is surprising how relatively rarely mental trauma is touched upon in crime novels, except tangentially. These two titles, both by debut authors, are exceptions. Both are disturbing narratives about a young female protagonist teetering on the edge of breakdown and criminal insanity.

Or are they, indeed, teetering? The suspense and ambiguity are such that it is not clear until the end, whether they might not already have been pushed over the edge.

Ali Land’s acclaimed Good Me Bad Me, already translated into more than 20 languages, is a dark exploration of the troubled mind of the teenage daughter of a serial killer.

The murderer is her mother, who is awaiting trial after being given up by Milly, as she is now known after being placed with a foster family under a new identity. Milly, herself abused from early childhood, will have to give evidence.

Unsurprisingly, the teen carries an enormous burden of guilt, because she was forced to help lure the nine victims. She is isolated and alienated, filled with a self-loathing that she can only ease by secret self-harming.

Nor is her new home life easy. Phoebe, her jealous new “sister”, is unaware of Milly’s past but is scratching around, hoping to find something she can use to hound the troubled teen from her new home and school.

If Milly is to hang onto her dreams for the future, she must first come to terms with her past. For although Milly ignored every filial instinct to go to the police, she is only too aware that she shares her genes and history with a killer.

The Ice Beneath Her also revolves around the frail internal lives of ostensibly “normal” people. Camilla Grebe weaves the kind of bleak, tangled web of suffering that underpins so much of the noir Swedish oeuvre.

Here is a depressive detective with a visceral antipathy to his own son. There’s also a female psychological profiler who is edging towards dementia and whose one chance at happiness — escaping from a controlling marriage — the detective wrecked 10 years earlier, when he stood her up.

But the focus is Emma Bohman, a young shop assistant in a clothing chain who is seduced by Jesper Orre, the CEO of the company. Orre, who is widely loathed because of his ruthless managerial style, demands absolute secrecy regarding their liaison.

Soon, however, the passion curdles. He is demanding. He borrows Bohman’s life savings but neglects to repay her.

Bohman’s one possession of any value, an inherited painting, mysteriously disappears. Her cat is thrown from the third-floor window of her flat.

And then Orre himself disappears and the police find in his home a beheaded woman, replicating a decade-old murder that was never solved. The puzzle that has to be unravelled by the dysfunctional detective and his profiler former mistress, is to establish who is hunter and who is hunted. — @TheJaundicedEye

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