Bedside Table books for May

These are among the books that landed on my desk in May. Some will be reviewed in full later.

Exclusive Books’ top titles for May include a rich selection of books by South African writers, ranging from essays from Haji Mohamed to the latest novels by Mike Nicol and Sarah Lotz and a book of short stories, set in Joburg’s Eldorado Park, by Terry-Ann Adams. Then there are The Boer War in Colour, Richard Steyn’s latest biography Milner, Genius by Bruce Whitfield in which he looks at the stories of amazing individuals, companies and industries, and Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim’s memoir Beyond Fear.

Here’s the Thing, by Haji Mohamed Dawjee (Macmillan)

On a Saturday when my first grandson was three weeks old, my son announced to his wife he was planning to have “an Eric-free day”. She looked at him levelly and told him that wasn’t how it worked.

In this collection of essays, with topics ranging from a letter to her late father to the joys or otherwise of freelance writing and the lessons tennis can teach you, Dawjee writes an acidly hilarious  piece about how no one discusses the horrors of a new baby. Or as she says (and I’m sure my son would agree): “…there is a significant part of you that is filled with… well, at times, regret, confusion and doubt”. She adds: “You may think it’s a tiny body so it will be a small shock – but it is in fact a huge shock; one you are never supposed to talk about…” You are basically not allowed to say: “What the fuck have we done?” She writes that Baby is not a Cabbage Patch doll, content to sit in a rocker while you go about your day. No, “Baby is a seven-month-old who needs to do something but can’t really do anything”. I think I need to introduce my son to Dawjee.

Hammerman – A walking shadow, by Mike Nicol (Umuzi)

I love a new Mike Nicol crime thriller – and this one looks to have everything his fans have come to appreciate. Apparently “hammerman” is a term used by the Cape Town underworld for a hired killer. In this case Hammerman, aka AJ, aka Colonel Andre Jacobs, or “No shit Jacobs” to his subordinates, is waiting on Rondebosch Common for a meeting with a woman. Who’s planning to kill him.

Bodies turn up all over – in the Strandfontein dunes, outside parliament, in a beach house, in a hotel room. Private investigator Fish Pescado discovers that it all ties back to the murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme in 1986.

Looks like a winner.

Impossible, by Sarah Lotz (HarperCollins Publishers)

Impossible is a love story, which starts with crossed emails, and then blossoms. Bee has a company repurposing wedding dresses. She tends to swipe right and never knows if a date will end up as Oh Hell No, Maybe or Shag. Nick is an editor who seems to be married. But they sense an immediate connection and agree to meet under the clock at Euston station.

And then the plot twists and sends us off on a weird, weird journey.

Is this relationship doomed? It certainly seems to be. And yet… One reviewer said: “I blinked and I was 50 pages in. It’s breathtakingly good, it has blockbuster movie written all over it.”

Looks a lot of fun.

White Chalk, by Terry-Ann Adams (Jacana)

The loves and losses of young Eldos people are the theme of this collection of stories. It’s full of vernacular, humour and real-life bitchiness, like Robyn, who goes to the matric dance as an Indian bridegroom, complete with turban, because she wants to be “extra afshowerig”.

And then there’s Laurelle, the belle, who plans to be the Beyonce of the banquet, but who is upstaged by Shanice at the After the After Party, whose boyfriend plays first-team rugby and is gebou aan to hou.

My Mess is a Bit of a Life –Adventures in anxiety, by Georgia Pritchett (faber)

I thought this was going to be a comedy novel but discovered no, it’s a memoir. Georgia Pritchett is a hugely successful British comedy and drama writer with the likes of Succession and Miranda under her belt. She’s won five Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Bafta. So what’s she got to be anxious about?

Well, of course anxiety doesn’t necessarily recognise success. Or you could be anxious about losing that success. Or losing your writing touch. I don’t know.

But having scanned a few pages of this hilarious but dead-pan account, I’d say it’s certainly worth reading. And from her earliest years she had things to worry about. “When I was little I used to think that sheep were clouds that had fallen to earth. On cloudy days I used to worry that I would be squashed by a sheep.”

The No Show, by Beth O’Leary (Quercus)

On the same day, which happens to be Valentine’s Day, three women have set up dates with Joseph Carter. Siobhan is supposed to be having breakfast with him, Miranda’s having lunch and Jane is taking him to an engagement party. But he doesn’t turn up to any of them.

One reviewer described The No Show as “a truly brilliant book. It’s clever and intriguing…” Well I dunno about that, but it would seem to be easy to get into.




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