Monthly Archives: June 2018

How letters can make history sing – and what will historians of the future do?

Review: Vivien Horler

Last Letter Home, by Rachel Hore (Simon & Schuster)

last letter homeAs recently as 1990 I was still writing and receiving letters, and I have my half of the correspondence to this day. But who prints out and keeps important emails?

Novels based on the discovery of old letters, or on the consequences of a letter that was never delivered, will now need to be relegated to historical fiction.

I suppose Last Letter Home is technically historical fiction, half of it taking place during World War II which is still within living memory, but only just.

There are two narrative threads here, the story of author and historian Briony Wood, set in the present, and her fascination with the lives of a group of people in Norfolk before and during the war. Continue reading

One family’s experience of living in eye of the storm of history

Review: Vivien Horler

Two Sisters – Into the Syrian Jihad, by Asne Seierstad (Virago)

two sistersThe awful news of a deathly attack on worshippers at the Malmesbury mosque on the penultimate night of Ramadaan – apparently by a Somali man – brings closer the world laid bare by Norwegian writer Asne Seierstad in this stark work.

We read the headlines about IS and the devastation of Syria every day, we hear of attacks and beheadings, we see Somali refugees on our streets, but rarely get a glimpse of the human stories behind the news.

Seierstad, a former Norwegian war correspondent whose book The Bookseller of Kabul sold more than two million copies, has detailed one family’s devastation in Two Sisters. It is her non-fiction account of how a pair of teenage sisters, of Somali descent but born and brought up in Oslo, left their family and travelled to Raqqa in Syria to join IS. Continue reading

Murder can be a deadly dish

Review: Myrna Robins

Death Cup,  by Irna van Zyl (Penguin Random House)

death cupHow could I resist? A thriller sub-titled Murder is on the Menu, set against an Overberg background dripping with fickle foodies, on-trend restaurateurs and self-important chefs, followed by a series of deadly dishes and human corpses.

This is Van Zyl’s second detective novel and is translated from the Afrikaans original, titled Gifbeker. I was impressed by the author’s culinary knowledge of gastronomic contests, trends  and top restaurants. Having raced through the book, I came across pages of generous acknowledgements where she listed cookbooks that afforded her culinary knowledge both trendy and basic, chefs who shared their passion and expertise, especially with regard to foraging of  both seafood and fungi and techniques like open fire cooking in the kitchens.

From page one the tension is tangible, as a well-known and not always popular food blogger keels over in a top restaurant and dies – a highly poisonous mushroom proving responsible for her untimely death. Continue reading

Spirit of Jewish life for literary festival

Author Rahla Xenopoulos who will speak about her book The Season of Glass at the Jewish Literary Festival on Sunday

Author Rahla Xenopoulos who will speak about her book The Season of Glass at the Jewish Literary Festival on Sunday.

No sooner is the Franschhoek Literary Festival over than news of upcoming Cape Town festivals emerges.

The first is the Jewish Literary Festival, which has a programme of more than 60 events over a single day on Sunday (June 17).

Then later this year comes the Open Book Festival which runs from September 5 to 9.

The Jewish Literary Festival is in its third year, Continue reading

A member of the ‘SABC Eight’ remembers his father, one of the murdered ‘Cradock Four’

Review: Vivien Horler

My Father Died for This, by Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata (Tafelberg)

lukhanyo calataImagine if you were a three-year-old and this was your first memory.

“Once at the gravesite I remember holding on to my mother’s dress, too afraid of letting go. The up-and-down stamping by toyi-toyiing mourners shook the ground under my feet. I had never felt anything like that before, and I remember being so afraid of the ground collapsing underneath me.”

Despite dredging his memory, Lukhanyo Calata cannot remember a single moment with the father who by all accounts doted on him. Fort Calata, one of the Cradock Four, was murdered by the South African security police in June 1985. His older daughter Dorothy was almost 10, Fort was three, and his younger daughter, Tumani, was not yet born. His wife, Nomonde, was just 26. Continue reading

Kate Turkington believes in having a go

kate turkingtonReview: Vivien Horler

Yes, Really! – A life, by Kate Turkington (Tafelberg)

If there is a message Kate Turkington would like to leave for posterity, it would probably be her mother Doris’s mantra: “Have a go!”

Turkington, an academic, TV presenter and veteran broadcaster, has done her mother proud – in her early 80s she’s still up for having a go, whether it be foreign travel, quadbike riding or praising the delights of multiple orgasms.

She has had two husbands, four children and multiple lovers; has lived in London, Ireland, Nigeria and South Africa, has taught English literature to thousands of Wits University students, presented TV programmes both here and in Ireland, and travelled the globe. Continue reading