In 2007, a friend told me I should read St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a short story anthology by American writer Karen Russell. It was the type of book that took you to Neverland, she said. So I bought a copy, and was passed the baton as Russell’s next evangelist, telling as many people as I could about the magical, dreamlike stories hidden inside that much-loved paperback. (Another friend went on to emigrate with my copy.)
Or rather, how many books can Sally possibly read before the end of December.
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.
From the archive: 5 June 2014
I read The Fault in Our Stars over Christmas (it was a gift to myself). In fact, I very rudely sat outside in the sun, while my partner and his family were inside in the middle of Christmas lunch celebrations. I couldn’t put the book down, not even on Christmas Day.
(See this picture? That’s me stretched out between two camping chairs while trifle is being served inside.)
It was such an honour to make the shortlist for the Short Sharp Story Award, and even more so to be included in the anthology. I learned a lot from the editor, Joanne, and I can honestly say my future work will benefit richly from the experience.
Continue reading “Trade Secrets”
I know a few people who make a habit of not reading Next Big Thing books because ultimately, the end result never quite lives up to the hype. (I haven’t read The Girl on the Train and the movie’s already gone to DVD).
But sometimes it does.
I’m not quite sure why I love Agatha Christie mysteries so much. Nostalgia. The challenge of trying to figure out who did it. I read them again and again, especially around this time of year. And each re-read is as satisfying as the first time round.
To call myself a Harry Potter fan would be an understatement.
One of my best friends gave me a homemade Harry Potter Monopoly set for my birthday this year. She has a twin set herself, with different properties and Chance questions. The reason we’re friends in the first place is because of our mutual love of the boy wizard. (We’re the type of fans that immediately pick up the mistakes in the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit game.)
Continue reading “When a book is so much more than a book”
Everybody wants to belong.
After her best friend ditches her, fourteen-year old Evie has to spend her summer wandering around the town alone. That’s when she notices the girls. They’re raggedy around the edges, with long hair blowing freely in the breeze. They’re misfits, who shoplift and break into people’s homes and even scrounge for food in dumpsters. But there’s something magical about them. They live without rules in a big old house near a creek and have wild parties at night around bonfires and burning cars. Their leader, a charismatic musician named Russell, teaches them about free love and togetherness.
Continue reading “LEGO book review: The Girls”
One of my favourite things in the world is visiting schools and meeting my readers.
There’s something about standing on a stage in front of a 100 students and seeing the absolute looks of glee when I tell them what my books are about. Followed by the absolute looks of horror on the faces of the faculty when I donate all my books to the library.
Continue reading “A shout out to two of my favourite schools”