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: 17 July 2016

It's Okay to LaughIt’s Okay To Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)
Nora McInerny Purmont (Little Brown)
Book real
20-something Nora’s husband Aaron is diagnosed with incurable brain cancer. So they decide to live their best lives while he is still breathing, as in watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer re-runs and retell each other all their stories. But then he dies, her father dies and she has a miscarriage – all in a matter of weeks. However, this is not a misery memoir, it’s life affirming, gentle, warm and witty. As Lena Dunham says about the book: it’ll make you laugh and cry too. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Mothering SundayMothering Sunday
Graham Swift (Simon & Schuster)
Book buff
This enchanting novella pivots on the formative experiences of 22-year-old Jane Fairchild, a young domestic servant in 1920s England. It tells of her secret affair with the soon-to-be-married heir to the Upleigh estate, of the stark differences and difficulties of class divides and of how she eventually manages to free herself from these constraints to become a novelist. By turns tragic, erotic and whimsical, it enlightens in so many ways, evoking a certain post-war era with ease. – Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin

Zero GZero-G
Rob Boffard (Orbit)
Book fiend
Presented in breathless chapters so short they’d make James Patterson smile, Boffard’s second-in-a-trilogy space thriller Zero-G doesn’t let up once in its 450 pages. His protagonist, Riley Hale, is a cop on a giant space station, home to what remains of Earth’s population after a nuclear apocalypse. She’s already saved the station once (in Tracer) and she must do so again amid threats including terrorists, a contagious disease and a psychopathic doctor. The unceasing action doesn’t give the characters much space to be developed, but Zero-G is an exhilarating read that will encourage readers to head back to bookstores for the follow-up, Impact. – Bruce Dennill @BroosDennill

Edyth Bulbring (Tafelberg)
Book Monster
I wish Edyth Bulbring had been writing when I was young, but being a good 40 years older than her target market has not prevented me from enjoying her books. Snitch takes us into an environment at which Bulbring excels, the South African high school – that hive of teenagers, teachers and trouble. Ben Smith, 13, illustrates the 18 rules of surviving school, and suffers the dire consequences of breaking rule No 15: Never Tell Your Mom Stuff. – Aubrey Paton

Book details

Addictive claustrophobia: Andrew Salomon speaks to MR Carey about his latest thriller, Fellside

By Andrew Salomon for the Sunday Times

MR Carey (Little, Brown)

A fair dollop of courage and a deft writerly touch are required to produce a poignant, character-driven novel that works as a prison thriller, a murder mystery, and a ghost story. With his latest novel, Fellside, Mike (MR) Carey has again showcased his talent for seamless genre-mingling in the service of telling a thrilling story.

“I think we live in the age of the genre mash-up,” says Carey. “The boundaries are much more fluid than they were in past decades – and that seems to be true in all media.”

Storytelling across different media is something Carey has become known for and he credits comics with having taught him how to write: “When you write a comic you have to be hyper-aware of structure because you’ve got a canvas that is of a strictly limited size. If you’ve been allotted 22 pages – the standard length when I first started writing for comics – you can’t usually borrow a 23rd. If you run out of space before you run out of story, you’re in trouble. So it was a really valuable discipline for me.”

For more than a decade comics formed the core of Carey’s creative life: he wrote the entire run of the Eisner Award-nominated Lucifer, and his work for DC Comics and Marvel Comics includes such acclaimed titles as The Unwritten, X-Men: Legacy, Hellblazer and Ultimate Fantastic Four.

Carey came to international attention with the phenomenal success of his previous novel The Girl With All The Gifts – a dystopian thriller in which beauty and horror are inextricably entwined. He also wrote the screenplay for a film adaptation of the novel. The film, titled She Who Bears Gifts and starring Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine, is set for release later this year.

Asked what sparked the idea for Fellside, Carey says it began with a character, Jess Moulson – an addict who does a horrible thing in the grip of her addiction. Addiction has long been of interest to Carey; there is “always a struggle against a version of you, an aspect of you, that surfaces because of the addiction”.

In Fellside, Jess’s addiction leads to her being imprisoned for a murder she cannot recall committing. Wracked with guilt, she is determined to end her life through a hunger strike. But when the ghost of the 10-year-old boy Jess has been convicted of killing demands her help, there is no way in this world – or in any other – that she can refuse. Only now Jess is set on a collision course with the merciless Harriet Grace, who has carved out her own drug empire in the maximum security ward.

In The Girl With All The Gifts a large part of the story takes place inside a guarded military facility where the “special” children are kept. In Fellside the setting is a high security mega-prison built on the edge of the bleak Yorkshire Moors. Carey admits to a fondness for enclosed settings. “Claustrophobia can be a powerful narrative engine, in that you’re trapped not just in a place but in a particular set of relationships. You don’t have any choice, you just have to work through and see where you end up.”

His work across different media continues unabated: he has recently delivered a new novel to his editor, as well as the script for a new comic series to artist and longtime collaborator Peter Gross.

Mike Carey’s six recommendations for new comic book readers

Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, A Love and Rockets BookPalomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, A Love and Rockets Book by Gilbert Hernandez

Palomar is the mythical Central American town where Hernandez bases his detailed and layered stories of the Latin American experience. “Amazing magic realism, and some of the best black-and-white art I’ve ever seen.”
Uncle Gabby: Sock MonkeyUncle Gabby: Sock Monkey by Tony Millionaire

Nothing is sacred or safe in the Sock Monkey world. “Millionaire is an amazing draughtsman, and his deceptively simple stories are unlike anything else that’s out there.”
KlezmerKlezmer by Joann Sfar

“Sfar [one of France’s most celebrated young comics artists] is known for his Rabbi’s Cat stories [set in Algeria in the 1930s]. This is his other epic, a tale of Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe before World War II.”
BeanworldBeanworld by Larry Marder

Beanworld features stories about characters that Marder has been drawing since childhood. “Mythmaking of a very fine and pure kind. With Beans.”
Things Just Get Away from YouThings Just Get Away From You by Walt Holcombe

A collection of Holcombe’s late-1990s work in which the themes are love gained and love lost. “Very funny but laced with poignant observations on human life and love.”
UzumakiUzumaki by Junji Ito

This manga series is based on Ito’s obsession with spirals and his attempts to understand it. “A horror comic in which the monsters are abstract shapes. Scary as hell.”
Book details

Sex workers lead the way

Grace Bura (not her real name) came to South Africa three months ago from her home town of Dar es Salaam to set up a new business: sex work.  She is based in one of Durban’s biggest brothels and earns R70 per transaction. R240 of her earnings each day go to the brothel owner for rent. It’s hard and dangerous work, she says, but much more lucrative than the small clothing business she had at home. What’s more, the exchange rate works in her favour and the rands she earns here buy a decent living for her child, who lives back home with his grandparents.

Sex work in South Africa is particularly risky because of the high prevalence of HIV. Around 60% of sex workers are infected.   Fortunately for Grace, though,  her move here has  coincided with the launch of the most promising new HIV prevention tool yet.  In May this year, the Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsaoledi, announced that 10 sites across the country would start giving pre-exposure prophylaxis (known as PrEP) to sex workers.  It comes in the form of a once-a-day pill, Truvada, which works by blocking an enzyme called HIV reverse transcriptase. By blocking this enzyme, it prevents HIV from making more  copies of  itself in the body. If taken every day, Truvada gives 99% protection against HIV infection.

One of the sites chosen to dispense PrEP is the TB/HIV Care clinic in eThekwini, which already provides comprehensive health care services to sex workers.

Grace first heard about Truvada from a TB/HIV Care counselor. “I know about this clinic because I have seen the ladies come to the brothel,” she said. “She called me and told me to come here to get tested. I agreed because I want to look after my health. Thank god I was negative.”

Grace started on Truvada on June 22. She returned to the clinic yesterday to get two months’ advance supply because she is going to work in Johannesburg for a while. “Work is slow here now,” she explains. “If you go away and then come back, they think you are new and you get more clients.”

If Grace keeps on taking her pill every day – and there is every indication she will – she will be able to protect both herself and her clients, as well as their partners.

This is a giant step towards defeating a virus that accounts for more than 30% of deaths in South Africa.

*This article first appeared on

Read Lidudumalingani's 2016 Caine Prize-winning story "Memories We Lost"

Read Lidudumalingani's 2016 Caine Prize-winning story - and listen to him read it


This Fiction Friday, celebrate South African writer Lidudumalingani’s recent Caine Prize victory by reading his winning story, “Memories We Lost”.

The piece was originally published in the 2015 Short Sharp Stories anthology Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You, when it was described by Diane Awerbuck as “a terrifying examination of mental illness based on the writer’s real-life familial experiences”.

At the prize announcement, Chair of Judges Jarrett-Macauley said the story “explores a difficult subject – how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia”.

“This is a troubling piece,” she continued, “depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”

Tseliso Monaheng gives a beautiful reading of the story, available to listen to on Soundcloud:


Don’t miss Lidudumalingani in Johannesburg for an iSwareyi at the end of July.

Without further ado, read an excerpt from “Memories We Lost”:

There was never a forewarning that this thing was coming.

It came out of nowhere, as ghosts do, and it would disappear as it had come. Every time it left, I stretched my arms out in all directions, mumbled two short prayers, one to God and another to the ancestors, and then waited on my terrified sister to embrace me.

The embraces, I remember, were always tight and long, as if she hoped the moment would last forever.

Every time this thing took her, she returned altered, unrecognisable, as if two people were trapped inside her, both fighting to get out, but not before tearing each other into pieces. The first thing that this thing took from her, from us, was speech, and then it took our memories.

She began speaking in a language that was unfamiliar, her words trembling as if trying to relay unthinkable revelations from the gods. The memories faded one after the other until our past was a blur.

Some of the memories that have remained with me are of her screaming and running away from home. I remember when she ran out to the fields in the middle of the night, screaming, first waking my mother and me and then abducting the entire village from their sleep. Men and boys emerged from their houses carrying their knobkerries as if out to hunt an animal. Women and children stayed behind, frightened children clutching their mother’s nightgowns. The men and boys, disorientated and peeved, shuffled in the dark and split into small groups as instructed by a man who at the absence of a clear plan crowned himself a leader. Those with torches flicked them on and pushed back the darkness. Some took candles; they squeezed their bodies close and wrapped blankets around themselves in an attempt to block the wind, but all their matches extinguished before they could light a single candle.

Those without torches or candles walked on even though the next step in such darkness was possibly a plunge down a cliff. This was unlikely, it should be said, as most of them were born in the village, grew up there, got married there, had used that very same field as their toilet for all their lives, and had had in overlapping periods only left the village when they went to work for the white man in large cities.

They had a blueprint of the village in their minds; its walking paths, its indentations, its rivers, its mountains, its holes where ghosts lived were imprinted in their blood.

Hours later, the first small group of men and boys, and then another and another, emerged from the darkness. They did not find her. They had looked everywhere, at least they had claimed. They were worried about not finding my sister or annoyed at being woken in the middle of the night – I could not tell. Morphed into defeated men, their faces drooped to the floor, and their bodies slouched as if they had carried a heavy load. Each group was not aware of the other groups’ whereabouts.

They did not even know if the other groups still existed or if the night had swallowed them. They had last seen them when they wished them luck when they split up. They had heard them yell my sister’s name, in the dark, before going silent.

She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not respond to the calls.

Each group chanted with great terror. With each group that emerged, I hoped that it would chant something else, but nothing changed; the chant was, as if it had been rehearsed for a long time, repeated the same each time, tearing my heart apart.

She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not scream.
She did not cry.
She did not respond to our screams.

The chant went on until all groups had returned.

Mother, a woman of tall build and wide hips, only returned home when the sun was way up in the sky the next day, carrying my sister on her back.

She would scream in intervals as if to taunt me, my mother said.

Related stories:

Incredible JourneyLusaka Punk and Other StoriesThe Gonjon Pin and Other Stories10 Years of the Caine Prize for African WritingA Memory This Size and Other StoriesThe Caine Prize Anthology 2009: Work in Progress and Other Stories


Book details


Images courtesy of The Caine Prize

Announcing the 2016 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award shortlist

The Jacana Literary Foundation is delighted to announce the highly commended and shortlisted finalists for the 2015/16 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award.

Entries were judged blind by a panel comprising Pamela Nichols (chair), Fred Khumalo and Maureen Isaacson.

In alphabetical order, the following manuscripts have been shortlisted:

  • No word like home by Saul Musker
  • Selling LipService by Tammy Baikie
  • The Last Stop by Thabiso Mofokeng


The overall winner will be announced at an award ceremony later this year, at which their book will be revealed in print and the prize of R35 000 will be awarded.

The following manuscripts were highly commended:

  • Braids and Migraines by Andile Cele
  • Settlement by Phillip Doran
  • The Binding Hut by Mathabo Masilela
  • The Unfamous Five by Nedine Moonsamy

In a “first of its kind” the JLF will also present the inaugural Kraak Writing Award, with the winning writer selected from the 2014-2016 runners-up. The grant is valued at R25,000 and dedicated to the memory of Gerald Kraak, and it will offer the recipient mentoring and intensive coaching from an editor/publishing expert enabling the author to refine and develop their work still further.

Pamela Nichols, chair of the judging panel, says: “One of the best features of this award is the complete anonymity of the authors. This means that we frequently get surprised at the end of the process. And our judgement doesn’t get complicated by friendship or reputation because we have no idea of who wrote what. This is important in a literary culture which is frequently closed and inward looking.

“So the Dinaane Literary Debut Award is important because it has encouraged a complete cross section of entries. And the winning authors are able to get new fiction into an extended public repertoire of southern African literature. The 2015 winner [Andrew Miller] said that he had never made any shortlist or got anywhere with a publisher before. We hope that he and the 2016 winner are at the beginning of their contribution to extending our literary horizons.”

Dub StepsThe Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfKhalil's JourneyDeeper Than ColourSaracen at the Gates
Till We Can Keep An AnimalCoconutBitches' BrewIce in the LungsThe Silent Minaret


Related news:

Book details

2016 Nielsen Booksellers' Choice Award shortlist announced

2016 Nielsen Booksellers' Choice Award shortlist announced


Alert! The South African Booksellers Association has announced the shortlisted finalists for the 2016 Booksellers’ Choice Award.

The R20 000 prize is given to the title that South Africa’s booksellers most enjoyed reading, promoting and selling. Recent winners include Marguerite Poland, Tim Noakes, Frank Chikane, Deon Meyer, Alex Smith, John van de Ruit, Peter Harris and Jake White.

In alphabetical order, the following books have been shortlisted this year:

Death By CarbsIkarusImmer wesLittle SunsRecipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria MysterySweet Medicine


The winner will be announced at the Sefika gala event on Tuesday, 30 August.

Press release:

Thanks to the members of the South African Booksellers Association, we have had an amazing number of submissions for this year’s award – in the region of 150 nominations were received which is extraordinary. The shortlist consists of fiction titles including romance and crime – always a good mix.

Death by Carbs by Paige Nick at first glance would appear a non-fiction title but it is not, it’s based on South Africa’s biggest craze – dieting – and Paige pokes a little fun and sheds a little light on this phenomenon. Deon Meyer’s Ikarus looks at the disappearance of an infamous internet entrepreneur and the ensuing investigation, while Immer Wes by Irma Joubert is a romance that looks at fading beauty and the impact of war on people and relationships. Zakes Mda’s title Little Suns weaves the true events of the death of Magistrate Hope into his story of love and perseverance.

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew is a mix of romance, mystery, crime and cooking – what a combination! The last title in the shortlist is Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi which looks at a modern young woman with values and spirituality who discovers that sometimes life is a compromise.

One of the authors – Zakes Mda – has been shortlisted before, in 2001 and 2003, but has not yet won this prestigious award – could this be third time lucky? Deon Meyer, on the other hand, won in 2012 and is again on the shortlist. We wish all the authors the very best of luck.

With such overwhelming submissions in the first round, we are now entering the second round of votes from booksellers – all votes must be in by Tuesday, 19 July, 2016.

Last year’s winner Marguerite Poland said on hearing the news in 2015: “Last night I got a message that thrilled and uplifted me incredibly! Penguin sent a message to let me know that my novel, The Keeper, had won the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award. I am absolutely delighted and it is the highlight of my career. I so wish I had been at the dinner but you can imagine how wonderful it is to have this acknowledgement of my work.”

This year the award will be presented to the winning author on Tuesday, 30 August 2016 at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town. The awards and gala dinner promises to be a glitzy and exciting evening attended by publishers, booksellers and the all-important authors without whom there’d be no book!


Book details