Last Man in Tower

by Aravind Adiga (Penguin) R200 ISBN: 9781848875173


In 2008 Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his debut White Tiger. His new book is set around the depilated building, Tower A of the Vishram Society in the heart of Mumbai.


The residents have learned to live with the shortcomings of their flat, until a real estate developer offers them a large amount for their homes under two conditions: they all have to agree and there is a deadline. The viewpoint shifts between a few residents who all ponder the offer.


In five months the dynamics within the flat change: the residents especially turn against Masterji, the old teacher, who lost his daughter and wife. He is the only one not wanting to sell: he does not want to part with his memories and he sees no advantage in leaving. He thinks he is fighting against greed and corruption.


Adiga makes some characters come to life with their behaviour, for example when they delve into their neighbour’s rubbish and draw conclusions from their finds.


His descriptions are colourful and the petty fights of the neighbours are amusing, but also take a lot of space in the book and I found my thoughts drifting in the middle of the book.

Recommended, ‘when nothing else available’.


Pauline Vijverberg


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This is Not the End of the Book

by Carrière and Eco (Harvill Secker) R250, ISBN: 978-1-846-55451


Book lovers the world over are debating whether the printed book will survive the digital revolution. Jean-Claude Carrière and Umberto Eco are avid book collectors and writers. They are qualified to debate this issue. This they do by drawing examples from the past about how the written word has survived many centuries.


This is Not the End of the Book takes the form of a conversation. Carrière and Eco examine the influences of the digital age and the impact of knowledge at the click of a mouse. They acknowledge that one of two things will happen: the book will continue as a reading medium or the replacement will resemble the book. What will not change is the content.


I felt like a child listening to grownups talking. Sometimes, I had some insight into what they were saying and at other times my mind drifted, not quite following the discussion.


It is a worthwhile read if you don’t mind wading through a bit of boastful conversation about Carrière and Eco’s vast book collections. It is not an easy bedtime read unless you suffer from insomnia.


Ulrike Hill


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Next To Love

by Ellen Feldman (Picador) ISBN: 9780330544504 

After her success with Scottsboro, shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and The Boy who Loved Anne Frank, Feldman has written a story about three friends, Babe, Millie and Grace, in a small city in Massachusetts. 

It starts in a promising way when Babe, working as a telegraph operator in 1944 is the first one to know who in town has lost a husband, father, or son. For the three friends the war is an end and a beginning in their lives. 

The viewpoint alternates between the three women, but Babe was the central figure for me. She is in many ways an outsider, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Each character struggles with different issues in the following twenty years. 

The plot is influenced by the political and economic atmosphere of the time, but I did not feel connected to the characters. Points in history that interest me are just mentioned in the side-line. I would have liked to know less about Grace and Millie and more about the black domestic worker Naomi and her son who is involved in the civil right movement. 

Overall the book is entertaining, but not unforgettable. 

Pauline Vijverberg

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The Eleventh Day

The Ultimate Account of 9/11by Anthony Summers & Robert Swan (Doubleday) R250.00 ISBN 978-0-385-61282-1


The whole world watched as the twin towers in America were attacked by daredevil aeroplanes that destroyed each building, leaving thick smoke and fire in their wake. People were shocked as workers jumped out of the burning buildings.  Pedestrians fleeing on the ground had to avoid the "jumpers" landing on them. 


The terrible attacks sent shockwaves around that world that reverberate to this day. The book is so well researched but in spite of the facts in front of them, there remains a feeling of mystery about the 9/11 attacks. Were there more countries involved than was thought? Could someone have prevented what happened, if they'd take notice beforehand?


The stairs to freedom in the buildings were hampered by thick smoke.  People were burnt alive.  Why did President Bush carry on with the class of children when he had been informed of the darkest disaster to befall his country? What were the motives behind the attacks? There are answers and no answers. 


When Osama Bin Laden was finally captured and killed, there were no answers. The World Trade Centre, The Pentagon and a quiet field in Pennsylvania were the endings of the madmen. 


This book is as shocking as the day the disasters happened. Families will never be the same. The overwhelming grief is too much to bear. This book says it all as it was.


Dee Andrew


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Funny Business

by Gus Silber (Zebra) ISBN: 978-1-77022-089-8


What is funny about business? According to Ronnie Apteker, entrepreneur and stand-up comedian, a lot. Firstly you should not take yourself seriously and secondly, like a comedian you have to close a deal every 15 minutes.


Gus Silber, award winning journalist, pens this story about Ronnie Apteker who founded an internet company before the Internet became business jargon. Apteker made money selling his business and now he makes movies.


Apteker has made mistakes in his life and has not always made the right decisions. His recommendation? Look at life with humour, take his advice and move on.


Silber brings Ronnie Apteker to life in this book. It is a story but there are bits of advice in between the anecdotes and humour. It is not how to succeed in business but rather about doing what you are passionate about. It is not about making money. Apteker believes that money does not buy passion and will not motivate people too work late into the night.


The book is well written, Apteker is an interesting character but I did find the title of this book a little hard to swallow. Business is serious. But this book is a worthwhile read with a different spin on the business world.


Be warned: you will not become a millionaire after reading this book.


Ulrike Hill


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Midwinter of the Spirit

by Phil Rickman (Corvus) ISBN: 9780857890108

Midwinter of the Spirit, the second in the Merrily Watkins series, starts with a chill, a small shiver of apprehension. A woman stands in an unlit back room of an old chapel looking for the imprint of a ghost in a cracked mirror. 


That woman is Merrily Watkins, a small, pretty single mother of a teenager daughter and a sensitive, sympathetic preacher. If she’s not someone you would ever picture as an exorcist, well, nor does she.


However, the Bishop has chosen her to study at a Christian deliverance group in the English Midlands. No surprise – she’s the only woman in the group and faces resistance from the start of her new calling.


Merrily will need this crash course in fighting unseen evil as soon as the bodies show up in this intriguingly spooky novel.  At more than 500 pages, Midwinter of the Spirit takes its time to unfurl the full horror of its mysteries, but from the first line, you understand you are in the hands of a master storyteller.  


Every character is drawn with the clearest authenticity. Every setting is imbued with cold gothic starkness, in turns strangely beautiful and subtly unsettling. 


It’s not a book to read late at night – the evil is almost palpable on every page, the menace as close as breath to the nape of your neck. A superb supernatural thriller.


Anthony Ehlers


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by Don Winslow (Headline) ISBN 978-0-7553-7021


The monk said softly 'Satori' "To see things as they really are."  Nicholai Hel asked "What am I not seeing?"  "The Trap," answered the monk, "and the way out of it." 


This is a very fast paced thriller involving arms, drugs, gambling and also a deep love affair between Nicholai Hel and Solange, the exquisite blonde who also turns out to be the surprise character in the story. 


Nicholai Hel's portfolio is to kill the Soviet Commissioner to China.  A night at the opera is when he decides to seize his opportunity. 


Complex, multi-layered, well researched, you will find this a satisfying novel.


In spite of being terrified all the time that Nicholai Hel will never live, his life is so violently portrayed. If you can enjoy being terrified all the time, thinking that Hel will die because his life is so violently portrayed, and if you can manage to be on the edge all the time you will love this thriller. 


I felt as if I were in a James Bond movie.


Dee Andrew


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The Devotion of Suspect X

by Keigo Higashino (Little Brown) ISBN 978 1408 703 250

I don’t know if this book is good. Let’s examine the facts. It is written well. And this is almost always good but there’s not much to say about well written books. 

The plot is interesting if a bit rehashed and threadbare for a murder mystery. Though I don’t fault it for that. After all characters make the book, and certainly the population of this world is interesting.  Though I find I didn’t really care about them enough to be shocked at the end. 

And that’s where it falls flat it feels like each character could have had at least five to six more chapters of development to give them some life. However, that would turn this book into a 1000 page boring monster that nobody would read. 

In all fairness it is translated and may have lost some of its spunk in the process. But that is really no excuse. 

I like it and it’s worth the trouble but it’s really only half a book that promises much and then ups and leaves town in the night with your free cash and a day or two of your hard earned time. 

Christopher Dean 

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The Vuvuzela Revolution

Anatomy of South Africa’s World Cup by Richard Culland, Lawson Naidoo and Andrew Whaley (Jacana) ISBN 978-1-77009-971-5

South Africa embraced its role as host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Although there were many challenges, the “gees” prevailed and the depth of the citizens’ patriotism doubled from the opening ceremony on 11 June 2010.

Over a year of planning on how to get tickets to the most interesting games at the best price brought the authors together. From there, they decided to create a memoir about this uplifting event, including journalistic commentary from other sources to explain the different aspects of this period in South Africa’s history.

Written in an informal and readable style, this is an interesting read. For instance, one learns that “Waka Waka” actually ripped out the essence of the original Cameroonian 1986 song by Golden Sounds – “Zamina Mina” which is still used by the police and army during training.

This is a great memento to keep of that time, and as they say, “Ke Nako” – it's our time to celebrate Africa’s Humanity. If you’re not sentimental, give it a miss.

Amanda Blankfield 

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Book Review - Play Rugby

by Andy Colquhoun (Pearson Education) ISBN: 978-1-775781493

This is Bokkies Official Guide to rugby in South Africa. It is aimed at the young rugby player who is learning to take his first steps on the rugby field. The layout is colourful with interesting pictures, photos. The biographies of popular Springboks like John Smit, Bryan Habana and the all-time great Beast Mtawarira will enchant young rugby players.

The future Springbok can follow the easy-to-follow pictures explaining tackling techniques and getting how to get past the opponent. Moms will also learn a lot from this book. The easy to follow rules about the game is played and how points are scored are basic.

I liked the educational aspect of the book. Rugby is not just about brawn. Rugby players must have brains as well. For example, young rugby players can learn about acronyms. Rugby is full of acronyms like SARU and GLRU. There is a Bokkie maths quiz. This is important to work out how many tries, conversions and penalties fit into a score of say, 10.

The bonus DVD is fun to watch. I loved how the animated Bokkie discovers a Springbok jersey in the Karoo. He becomes a super Bok when he puts the jersey on and becomes super-fast and super-strong.

I can see that this book will become Dad’s favourite bedtime story… for his son of course!

Ulrike Hill 

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.