There has never been a better time to settle down with a book, so here are the first five of the ten isolation books we recommend you read.
SHE DOWN THERE by Lynton Francois Burger
Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9781485904359 ISBN ebook: 9781485904458
“She, who lives in the minds of men, glides through the clear cold water….” and with a “melancholic call….leaves this place to be with all the sea creatures in all the seas.” So it is we are introduced to She Down There, mythic sea being known across cultures and whose presence also glides through this story. Specifically in the case of this magical aquatic book, she is known as SGuuluu Jaad, Foam Woman or Sedna to the Haida people of Canada from whom Claire Lutrisque is descended. Claire is at home in the sea, her spirit animal a sea otter. Klaas Afrikaner discovers his waterself in a brackish dam on a Karoo farm. Their journeys, hers as marine biologist, his as navy diver, pitch and roll till they collide on the coast of Mozambique. With their shared underwater passion and concern for endangered coral, inevitably there’s a pull as strong as a rip tide. Marine biologist, diver and underwater photographer himself, Burgers own passion and intimate knowledge of the sea and its inhabitants coarse through the pages shining light into hidden crevices and the psyche of orcas, sea lions and octopuses. He has a good crack at human psyche too and has poured a great deal of his own soul into his first novel.
TOO BLACK TO WEAR WHITES: The Remarkable Story of Cricket Hero Krom Hendricks by Jonty Winch and Richard Parry
Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9781776095087 ISBN ebook: 9781776095094
Listening to Winch and Parry at the launch of their book about a coloured cricketer barred from representing his home country, brought tears to the eyes. That two older white men, one in London, one in Jo’burg both independently moved to write about Oom Krom nearly twenty years ago, finally came together to write this comprehensive piece of sporting history is a triumph of commitment. “No references to the 1890’s are complete without mention (of him)” they say in their acknowledgments, though ”few historians provide detail.” Briefly William Henry ‘Krom’ Hendricks, Bo-Kaap born in 1857, went on to become ‘‘among the best fast bowlers in the world’ who in the words of sports historian Andre Odendaal in the Foreword, “delivered high-speed yorkers which burst through defences and electrified the big crowds who queued to see their hero bowl.” That he was excluded from South Africa’s tour of England in 1894 because of his race is a ‘case study in social injustice.’ But he continued to play, to inspire and become the legend that these two authors have described in glorious detail. Although his wife succumbed, Hendricks who survived the Spanish flu of 1918, was finally ‘caught out’ peacefully in his sleep in 1940. A must for all lovers of cricket and justice.
TO THE VOLCANO and Other Stories by Elleke Boehmer
ISBN: 9781912408245 ISBN ebook: 9781912408252
Arresting, intriguing, luminous and seductive are some of the adjectives used on the cover of Boehmer’s anthology of tales. All of which could equally describe what has become known as ‘the global south.’ Born in South Africa but based now in the UK, this professor of World Literature of English has, over and above an exquisite grip on how to succinctly, simply and sensitively put across a scene, a whole soul or the smallest of gestures, a connection to The South that defines her. And in the case of this book, guides her stories, all of which have links to countries below the equator – Argentina, Australia, South Africa etc. She talks of the distinctive ‘southern light’ that bathes the hemisphere and inspires its writers. But if this sounds fey, her stories describe people who are utterly real, raw and flawed. There’s a frisson between two supermarket shelf-packers, a boy making paper planes for his dementia-ridden gran, tour-guide Evelina with an airport fetish and the communications officer whose life is changed by a field trip To The Volcano, title story. Both every day and yet so very washed in undercurrent, these stories are haunting and compelling.
EYES OF THE NAKED by Litha Hermanus
ISBN: 9781415210079 ISBN ebook: 9781415210369
‘Culture is both a static and kinetic force’. In an interview Litha Hermanus speaks his mind on the complex web of tradition that binds the past and the present together for so many South Africans. The blurred lines between the two is where this story lies as Nakedi flees from a crime scene in Jo’burg to the Eastern Cape. Complicating his journey he takes with him his young son who he snatches from the home of his ex-wife, a journalist whose investigative work drives her to long hours, risky behaviour and eventually into deep trouble. On the way Nakedi stops at his childhood home, but it’s his search for his younger brother at what might be a suspicious circumcision school that opens up even more tangled avenues and causes even more existential questions. Hermanus’s own multi-dimensional working life – as actor, flight attendant, language teacher, radio producer and presenter, currently working in the Japanese Embassy have given him rich pickings for his first novel – and his obvious love of writing enables him to expose experiences that will be unknown to many in South Africa.
THE INN AT HELSVLAKTE by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN: 9781485904168 ISBN ebook: 9781485904496
Ten years in the making, this book is essentially about, truth, betrayal, love and war. Time and place are deliberately non-specific, though the ‘Karoo-like landscape’ and ‘scorched-earth strategy’ that smoulders in the background are evocative clues. But it is through the extraordinary cast of characters that the story is told with no small reference to Tarot card imagery and some irresistibly exotic names. Leading the charge amongst the military is Captain Leander Botha Malan who distinguishes between ‘war and banditry’. Grounding the story is the Kitty the Innkeepers Wife, a skilled equestrienne, blacksmith and harpist. Amongst the technicolour supporting cast is The Transporter, Baz Applebaum, The Archivist, Ariel Lebowitz and key to the unfolding narrative, The Young Man, Rigal (short for Madrigal) Van der Stel. The action takes place before and after The Ambush which is in itself both beautiful and ghastly. Schonstein’s writing style is a beguiling mix of lyrical, sensual description and shocking human behaviour. Her lists of written and art references at the back reveal the depth of her hand-picked research. A visual banquet from cover to close.
Look out for part two with five more books to come.
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