I had forgotten all about this review I wrote of Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar’s beautiful novel The Map of Salt and Stars for The Sunday Times. It’s without doubt, my favourite book published this year.
I first encountered Louisa Treger’s writing in 2015 when I was asked by The Sunday Times to not only review her novel, The Lodger, but to also interview the author, who has roots in South Africa.
The Lodger was a captivating and enchanting work of historical fiction that detailed the doomed love affair between HG Wells and the lesser-known but equally brilliant writer Dorothy Richardson.
I must have talked about that book for months after, and recommended it to absolutely everyone.
I was excited to hear that Bloomsbury had picked up her second novel, The Dragon Lady, the idea for which was born during the author’s time in Franschhoek (or so I’ve heard). What I wasn’t expecting, was an advance copy of the book itself, which arrived on my desk completely by surprise last week.
Naturally, it found itself right on top of the reading pile.
The Dragon Lady follows another intriguing woman lost to the front pages of history, Lady Virginia Courtauld. Ginie, as she was known, was quite the scandalous figure in London society. She was a divorcee, didn’t really care what people thought and was rumoured to have a snake tattoo stretching all the way up her leg.
The novel follows Ginie and her husband Stephen’s time in 1950’s Rhodesia, then still under British rule, where instead of finding peace from their enemies, the couple only succeeded in making more.
Written in Treger’s signature captivating style, the book catapults the reader ever forward as Ginie struggles to win over her racist settler neighbours. Ginie and Stephen were outspoken against the wrongs they witnessed and worked tirelessly to change their new country for the better – even going as far as to have secret political meetings in their home. Needless to say, it won them few friends.
Treger has captured the last days of colonial Rhodesia perfectly. It is not just Lady Courtauld’s story, but also the people fighting for the country’s future. And while the book may only focus on a small piece of Zimbabwe’s long complicated history, it does so with emotion and fire.
I love learning about history’s forgotten heroines and The Dragon Lady succeeds in shining a light on a truly remarkable woman. Ginie was a fascinating character, never without her pet lemur Jongy (pictured above, regrettably, as a skunk, which was the closest thing I could find) Her home, La Rochelle, remains standing to this day and is maintained by the National Trust of Zimbabwe.
It’s a marvellous novel best enjoyed in a garden setting, with a large gin and tonic.
According to Amazon, The Dragon Lady will be available in June 2019.
Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I’m an Agatha Christie superfan. I’ve read and re-read all the books. I collect the vintage paperbacks as well as the movie adaptations. I write about her a lot and I get a huge kick out of recreating scenes from her books with LEGO minifigures.
Continue reading “LEGO book review: The Mystery of Three Quarters”
When it comes to my favourite things from childhood, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street novels are right up there with Monster Munch, Gatti Jelly Jolly and Rainbow Brite.
I was lucky enough to get all three books in Bontle Senne’s Shadow Chasers series recently, so armed with snacks and a more than willing cat companion, I got stuck in over the weekend. It’s what I call self-care, Sally style.
Continue reading “LEGO book review: Shadow Chasers”
There’s a theme I’ve noticed more and more on Twitter: read more women. It’s something I’ve been consciously doing myself, which is why if you’ve been following my blog, you would have noticed outpourings of devotion to writers like Emma Cline, Mary Watson, Sophie Hannah and Karen Russell among others.
Continue reading “LEGO book reviews: Women’s Prize for Fiction”
Sometimes book bloggers come across books by accident. This weekend I flew up to Jo’burg for the Kingsmead Book Fair. On the flight home, my companion, who happened to be the youth books publicist for NB, had a nap, leaving an upcoming YA title poking out the magazine sleeve in front of her. It was too tempting to resist.
Mythological heroes serve many purposes. They reveal the best and worst of us, they give us something to aspire to, and they mirror our lives on a grand scale.
Continue reading “LEGO book review: Circe”
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.
Continue reading “Local books to love this February”
When I discovered that Mary Watson’s debut young adult novel was going to be published by Bloomsbury, I knew right away that it was going to be very, very good. I’ve been quoting Watson’s short fiction in my workshops for some time, especially her Caine-Prize winning story, Jungfrau. I’m not the only one who thinks her short story collection, Moss, contains some of the best fiction out there. When she left for Ireland nearly ten years ago, it felt like South Africa had lost a very important voice. Until now.