Monthly Archives: January 2018

It seemed to be an all-black, stripeless zebra, but it couldn’t be, could it?

Zulu running wild

Zulu, after being recaptured and back on safari.

cover running wild

Review: Vivien Horler

Running Wild – the story of Zulu, an African stallion, by David Bristow (Jacana)

It must have been an amazing sight: a stallion, coal black except for one white sock and a white smudge on his shoulder, running wild in the bush of Botswana’s Tuli Block with his harem of zebra mares.

Reared as a riding horse and one of a herd used for bush safaris, Zulu spent four years living as a zebra stallion in the bush, avoiding predators, snakes and the scourge of African Horse Sickness. Continue reading

Transcending divisions of religion and politics through food

cookbook palestinianReview: Myrna Robins

The Palestinian Table, by Reem Kassis (Phaidon Press)

Let’s start with the author – a Palestinian professional who offers in her introduction both a fascinating self-portrait one of her family, and  follows with the complex composition of the Palestinian table.

Kassis’s mother is a Palestinian Muslim from a rural village in Palestine’s centre, her father a Palestinian Christian from a mountain village in the far north. Kassis grew up in Jerusalem, a melting pot of food and cultures, where her parents ensured that their daughter took a route other than aspiring to marriage. Having focused on her schooling, Reem was accepted, at 17, by several top American universities. A decade in the United States saw her attain professional degrees, followed by glamorous jobs and a hectic lifestyle. Then, after she met and fell in love with a fellow Palestinian, the couple moved to London and married.

myrna robins cookbooksAs a young mother at home with a small daughter Kassis had time to enjoy cooking traditional dishes from her childhood, and she shortened and simplified some of them. She noted that British restaurants serving Middle Eastern dishes displayed little Palestinian cuisine, and decided to share with the world family recipes and others from various villages. Continue reading

Veteran environmental journalist takes sobering look at the dangers facing SA wildlife

Review: Myrna Robins

Overkill,  by  James Clarke (Struik Nature)

The subtitle – The Race to Save Africa’s Wildlife – sums up the conservation goal, but the scope of the book is wider, offering readers a comprehensive summary of past and present threats to Africa’s wildlife, both marine and land-based.

Describing 2015 and 2016 as “the worst of years and the best of years” Clarke refers to the former as the costliest in terms of the wanton slaughter of the continent’s megafauna. But the 24 months  will  also go down , he thinks, as the time when the tide started to turn…  As he puts it, the lowest ebb is always at the turn of the tide Continue reading

Mad, bad, and dangerous to have shared a planet with

stuffed up the world50 People who Stuffed Up the World, by Alexander Parker and Tim Richman, illustrated by Zapiro (Burnet Media)


I assumed, driven partly by the “stuffed up” in the title, that this was a bit of a comic book, an amusing take on famous baddies.

Well, apart from Zapiro’s illustrations, there’s not much that’s amusing about it. In fact it leaves you feeling downright depressed. I hadn’t intended to sit down and read it through, though – between books I decided to pick it up and read a chapter here and there. And I was hooked. Continue reading

Food, eating and health – we’re faced with some confusing choices


myrna robins cookbooksVeteran food and wine writer MYRNA ROBINS looks at some of the great new cookbooks out there, with their sometimes confusing claims. The Books Page will run one cookbook review by Robins a week for the next few weeks.

My Low Carb Kitchen, by Vickie de Beer (Quivertree)

When the pile of healthy eating/diet/Banting/superfood cookbooks on my study table threatened to keel over, it was clearly time to tackle the range of diets they recommended. Looking back over my decades as a food writer, I  lived through a fair number of  diets, fads, claims and crazes, good, bad and indifferent, some of them extreme. They came, they flourished, then faded while most sensible people carried on eating moderate portions of a good, varied diet to maintain  good health. Of them all, I have always fancied the Mediterranean diet as a lifestyle worth following. Continue reading

Love letters reveal a father to orphaned daughter

Review: Vivien Horler

Letters from the Suitcase – a wartime love story, ed by Rosheen and Cal Finnigan (Tinder Press)

Rosheen Finnigan never remembered her father. A serving naval officer, he was in the UK when she was born in August 1940, and when he was posted to Swansea a few months later, Rosheen and her mother Mary joined him for just under a year, their only period of normal family life.

Then in March 1942 her father – David Francis – was selected to be part of the planning team for the top-secret Operation Ironclad, the code name for the invasion of Madagascar, and he sailed for Africa and, subsequently, India.

She never saw him again. Continue reading

A splendid book for when you need good SA news


Review: John Yeldwhat a great idea

WHAT A GREAT IDEA! Awesome South African inventions, by Mike Bruton (Jacana)


ALTHOUGH they probably won’t remember his name, many South Africans will claim to know that it was a local harbour engineer from East London who came up with the brilliant idea of dolosse – those huge weirdly-shaped concrete blocks that lock together to form an effective, energy-dissipating, sea-walls that protect ships and prevent erosion. Continue reading

The last timeless test and the end of a cricketing era

last timeless testReviewer: Archie Henderson

Edging Towards Darkness: The Story of the Last Timeless Test, by John Lazenby (Bloomsbury)

John Lazenby has breathed new life into a cricket relic.

The aficionados are familiar with its bones: in March 1939 at Kingsmead in Durban, South Africa and England played the longest cricket match. It was spread over 12 days, nine of actual play, one which was rained off, and two days’ rest. Yet it still produced no winner.

The bones are easily accessible and you can pore long and hard over the scorecard without giving them the flesh that Lazenby has found. Continue reading

When the land becomes art



sculpting the land

Scarlet rose petals are used to form a spiral beside the sea at Koeël Bay in the Western Cape.

Review: Vivien Horler

Sculpting the Land – artistic interventions with the landscape, by Strijdom van der Merwe ( Protea Book House)

Much of the art we admire has endured for centuries; some, like marble sculpture, is set in stone. But the work of Strijdom van der Merwe is ephemeral: based on light, shadow, water, wind, leaves and sand.

sculpting the landVan der Merwe is a land artist, a man who uses the materials of his chosen site to create geometrical forms that speak to the landscape in which he works. Sometimes he imports materials to complement a site, such as red rose petals in a beach installation, or scarlet flags in a field of wheat stacks.

He will also create essentially manmade shapes and superimpose them on a natural site: sawdust crosses on a forest road, a huge red cotton cross between two trees which seems to constitute a formidable bar to entry. One piece, worked in Nieuwoudtville during spring flower time, is a field of orange and yellow Continue reading

Brilliant story of Klimt’s ‘The Lady in Gold’

lady in goldReview: Vivien Horler

The Lady in Gold – the extraordinary tale of Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O’Connor (Vintage Books)

My reading year has started with a glorious, muscular book that, while it has the story of the Gustav Klimt portrait as its centrepiece, is so much more than that.

It is a tale of fin-de-siècle Vienna, a city of opulence and elegance and high society, of anti-Semitism, of great art, of the Holocaust and Nazi war crimes, of a post-war Austria that tried to forget its enthusiastic collaboration in Hitler’s war, of the desolation of refugees and a glimpse into the multi-million dollar contemporary art world.

Adele Bloch-Bauer

Adele Bloch-Bauer

Adele Bloch-Bauer grew up in pre-World War I Vienna, when that city was at the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She came from a vastly wealthy assimilated Jewish family, and married Ferdinand Bloch, a sugar-beet baron who was twice her age. She was an atheist and a free thinker, and despite her wealth, liked to describe herself as a socialist.

Also living in the city at the time was the artist Gustav Klimt, a man who had thrown off the straitjacket of conventional Austrian art, and painted works that were rejected by Viennese society for their eroticism, symbolism and boldness. He was embraced by the city’s wealthy Jewish elite, and received many commissions, including one to paint a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Continue reading