So Many books, so little time … When I’m not writing, I’m reading. Here are a handful of my most recent reviews (and a few all time favourites).
Nwelezelanga by Unathi Magubeni
“Through some unexplainable cosmic gestation a spark of light brightened the world…”
This line appears midway though a book that also starts like a spark of light in a dark universe, and builds steadily until you are blinded by the power of its message. With the patterns of a praise singer, and the lyricism of a born poet, debut novelist Unathi Magubeni catches you up in the rhythm of his story and doesn’t let you go until it is spent. [Read the full review here]
The Scattering by Lauri Kubuitsile
Lauri Kubuitsile insists that she didn’t want to write a book about war. She wanted to write a novel that transcended the statistics, one that made war real through individual stories. The Scattering does that and more. She has created an epic tale of love in a time of horror.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. It tells the story of genocide, the decimation of a people who never lived to tell their personal stories. It’s also a reminder that a love that survives war cannot always withstand a hatred turned inward. [Read the full review here]
Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle by Sindiwe Magona
Cattle: symbol of health and prosperity. Used for ceremony, celebration, atonement, sustenance – they are at the very heart of traditional village life. The cattle in the title of this book also symbolise frail and fractured communal bonds, principles that should bind people together, but too often rend them apart. This is a small story, about a small village, and a small family. It is also a huge story, about the power of love and the strength of the human spirit. [Read the full review here]
Barbara Kingsolver on Flight Behaviour, and more…
Sometimes you get lucky enough to spend an afternoon in conversation with one of your living literary idols. I had this opportunity when Barbara Kingsolver came to South Africa in early 2015. She was charming, engaging, funny, and wonderfully encouraging about my upcoming book launch. (Fan, much?) I wrote this review for The Times.
Barbara puts an assistant between herself and the world so she can concentrate on writing her next book. It doesn’t always work. “One day I said, ‘I don’t care if Robert Redford walks up the driveway with no pants on, I’m not coming out!’ And then my assistant knocked on the door and said, ‘You’ll never guess who’s on the phone…’ ” Barbara took the call, but declined the project.
This trip – her first to South Africa – was a working holiday with her husband, Steven. Next week she’ll return to rural Appalachia to grow vegetables and rear alphabetical sheep (they name each year’s lambs for a different letter). “We just got through ‘Q’. It was a fertile year, so it was a challenge. We had Quark, Queenie, Quanita … The good thing is we don’t have to live with these names forever. We eat them.”
(Tickled to see this interview quoted on Kingsolver’s Alma Mater DePauw University website.)