Category Archives: Guest Reviews

Beautiful read that pushes the boundaries of convention, hope and desire

third reel

Review: Beryl Eichenberger

The Third Reel by SJ Naude (Umuzi)

Recently I had the privilege of moderating a panel of writers at the Open Book Festival. The theme was boundaries, which posed an interesting angle on the books I had to read and also opened up a number of questions about what we perceive as boundaries and how we push them ourselves (but that’s another story.)

SJ (Fanie) Naude was one of my authors with his debut novel The Third Reel.

A work that definitely pushes the boundaries of convention, hope and desire, it is written in an eminently readable and beautiful style. Part serious, part thriller, the novel explores obsession in an era of cold war.

Set in the 1980s, the story concerns Etienne, a young South African studying film in London after escaping conscription and Continue reading

Mental disease is an illness, not a character flaw


Review: Thomas Horler

Turtles all the Way Down (Penguin)


I have been a fan of John Green since before I knew he was an author. I discovered him on YouTube giving a lighthearted review of world history.

He opened the first episode announcing that there would be a test, saying:

“The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship.

“You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your Twitter feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours. And everything, everything, will be on it.” Continue reading

Great read, but do your (pleasurable) homework

legacy of spiesReview: ARCHIE HENDERSON

A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carré (Penguin/Viking)

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John le Carré (Pan Macmillan)

A Call for the Dead, by John le Carré (Penguin)


George Smiley must be over a hundred, Peter Guillam well into his 80s and Jim Prideaux about a thousand years old. Jim was always old.

These three old secret service hands come together in John le Carré’s latest novel, A Legacy of Spies, where he returns to his old haunt, the Cold War. Or rather, the detritus of that part of his life and genre which produced his best works.

Guillam, this time, holds centre stage while Smiley and Prideaux have bit parts. Ghosts of Smiley and Guillam’s past have come back to haunt both spies in the form of the offspring of a dead agent and his innocent bystander/lover. Continue reading

Somewhere on the Border

cuito cuanavaleReview: ARCHIE HENDERSON

Cuito Cuanavale – 12 months of war that transformed a continent (Jonathan Ball)



Former war correspondent Fred Bridgland visited the frontlines of the war in Angola between 1975 and the late ‘80s, travelled with Unita guerrillas through that country, witnessed some of the fighting and interviewed many of those involved. So it’s surprising that the person he considers the hero of the conflict is not a soldier.

“If you were going to choose a hero in all this, it was Chester Crocker,” says Bridgland of the urbane US scholar-diplomat who served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1981 to 1989.

Crocker, the architect of the United States’ “constructive engagement” policy with Southern Africa, is credited with toning down the Angolan war, allowing the Cubans and South Africans to leave with dignity, engineering Namibian independence and probably bringing apartheid to an earlier end than expected. In doing so, Crocker had to keep a lot of balls in the air, and then let them down gently. Continue reading

Great global eat treats

Review by Myrna Robins

Masterchef Street Food of the World Book CoverMASTERCHEF STREET FOOD OF THE WORLD (Absolute Press of Bloomsbury)

Genevieve Taylor

This is a hefty hardback, its front cover presenting a mélange of dishes filled with fare both exotic and everyday: skewers of fiery offal share space with strawberry-topped waffles and cream, fried  egg tops a plate of Danish leftovers alongside all-American picnic sarmies.

The very title intrigues, and food writer Taylor has added prestige to what is a pleb menu by getting contributions from MasterChef champions from France, Denmark, Australia, USA, the Far East and the UK. As the back cover states, millions around the globe relish street food every day, so a compendium of these recipes from all corners of the planet amounts to a treasury for adventurous home cooks to explore.

With the current vogue of food trucks in towns and cities dishing out portable street eats, along with  night markets and food festivals proliferating across the globe, this sociable cuisine is trending, and it seems unlikely that such a  relaxed informal way of eating will go out of fashion soon, if ever. Continue reading