Any South African reader will tell you that Zelda Bezuidenhout is a huge deal in the local young adult scene. Her books are extremely popular and she has a huge following. So naturally, I was ecstatic when she was chosen to translate my novel Sharp Edges into Afrikaans. Skerwe was released earlier this year and I get a thrill every time I see both our names on the cover.Continue reading “LEGO Book Review: Confessions of a Ginger Pudding”
One thing that’s become apparent to me on social media is that lockdown has affected us all differently, especially our sleeping and reading habits. I’ve been home for more than half a year now and I’ve only just started enjoying reading books again. In the first few months, all I wanted to do was watch Netflix and read graphic novels. I must have read hundreds of them (my poor credit card will vouch for that.) I think it was the nagging anxiety caused by the spreading virus – I didn’t want my attention drawn away for too long.
I have finally found my reading groove again, which I’m sure my new friends on Instagram were partly responsible for.
So here is a roundup of some of my lockdown reads so far.
I’ve always wanted to write a book about the ocean. Not the blue sky and sunshine kind, but a gloomy one that evokes that timeless, haunted feel only the sea can conjure – of countless wrecks and lost souls, of buried secrets and quiet, solemn knowledge.
So naturally, when I find a book that ticks all these boxes, I’m one very happy reader.
I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was in grade ten. It was a difficult novel to read, one of those books where you start reading a paragraph and end up daydreaming about something else for ten minutes. It took me a long time to finish. But it was a point of pride. I was on a mission to read all the great works of classic literature I could get my hands on (which were also incidentally free to take out from the library.) To me, Dracula was the classic that defined gothic literature.
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg will knock you sideways like Harley Quinn wielding her giant mallet.
This year, Hachette Children’s Group launched Bellatrix – a series of feminist retellings of classic literature for young adults. If you’re anything like me, your first reaction would be ‘Where can I get them?’
Edyth Bulbring’s The Choice Between Us (Tafelberg, 2019) is a clever little book. (You may remember it as one of my top YA picks for winter.)
I’ve been dying to read Mary Watson’s The Wickerlight ever since I saw the cover reveal on Twitter. The novel follows on from The Wren Hunt, which I reviewed last year. If it was anything as dreamy and atmospheric as the first book, I knew I had to read it.
This is not a review of The Outcast Hours. Well, not really.
I have a story in the collection, which makes it hard as a blogger and reviewer, because I really, really, really want to tell you all about these stories, but then I would be reviewing something I’m involved in, which would be weird.
So instead, I made LEGO stories of my favourite pieces from the anthology. No conflict of interest whatsoever.
This Book Will Find You by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen and Sam Beckbessinger
Ambulance Service by Sami Shah
Blind Eye by Frances Hardinge
Bag Man by Lavie Tidhar
Gatsby by Maha Khan Phillips
Swipe Left by Daniel Polansky
Not Just Ivy by Celeste Baker
Above the Light by Jesse Bullington
Welcome to the Haunted House by Yukimi Ogawa
See? I didn’t give anything away. Now you’re safe to go discover these stories for yourself.
I will say one thing though.
I love short stories. I love how things can go from bad to worse to the very extreme that an author’s imagination can go. And these little snapshots of what goes on during the ungodly hours do exactly that – they up the ante to the next level, going that much further than you thought was possible.
You think Matt in Daniel Polansky’s story Swipe Left is having a bad date. You have no idea how much worse it’s going to get.
Find it on Goodreads.
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.