Local is lekker, as we say in South Africa. I’ve joked before that you can’t throw a stone in Cape Town without hitting a writer, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. We have a feast of wonderful local books spanning every genre – thriller, crime, fantasy, romance, poetry, young adult, non-fiction.
There are writers whose words are so beautiful that I can only gasp in wonder, and try my best to aspire to their level – writers like Henrietta Rose-Innes, Diane Awerbuck and Mary Watson for example.
Mary is one of many local success stories. Having won the Caine Prize in 2006 for her story Jungfrau from her collection of short stories, Moss, she has recently published a beautiful young adult novel called The Wren Hunt with Bloomsbury.
It’s astonishingly good. Please read my review here, and get it for your loved ones. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day present* (you can throw in my new edgy romance novel, Mine, while you’re at it.)
But you don’t only have to look overseas for great young adult fiction. Two wonderful books came out of last year’s Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature – Hap, by Lesley Beake and New Keepers, by the prolific Jayne Bauling.
In Hap, Lucy travels from New York to Cape Town to stay with her father at his archaeological dig. The team braves a fierce winter as they hunt for evidence of early human ancestors. Not only does Lucy find the remains they’ve been looking for, but also the peace she has been searching for after the incident that forced her to leave New York.
It’s a beautifully written novel, rhythmic like the sea that flows across every page. It’s worthy of its Gold medal win.
Jayne Bauling’s New Keepers is set in a post-apocalyptic Johannesburg run by the City Minders. After a vision of a mysterious mountain, Jabz decides to go on a mission into the Wildlands. He offers his services as a guide as a way to make money, and ends up being accompanied by an assortment of lost souls, eager to find a way out of their dystopian surroundings.
New Keepers is a wildly imaginative work, filled with interesting characters and places. I was reminded of the punk teenager Rufio and his band of Lost Boys from Hook. It’s a great local spin on the dystopian genre.
While you’re here, I’d also like to recommend some older titles that deserve some love by the writers in my bookclub (because I love them and their books are lovely):
- The Fifth Mrs Brink by Karina Szczurek. Read my review here.
- Thinking up a Hurricane by Martinique Stilwell
- A Fractured Land by Melissa Volker (This one is perfect for Valentine’s Day)
- Back to Angola by Paul Morris (A gift for a history lover, maybe?)
- Past Imperfect by Emma van der Vliet
- Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok
- The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange
So please forget about the new 50 Shades and love local this February. You’re going to make a South African writer’s day.
*Update: The Wren Hunt is actually releasing mid-March in SA.