Book Review - Lament For The Fallen

by Gavin Chait (Doubleday) ISBN: 9780857523761

This is a science-fiction novel set in a remote village of Nigeria called Ewuru. 

The villagers discover the body of a man when a strange object falls from the sky and crashes in the jungle. The villagers know that the warlord from a neighbouring militia will soon be over to investigate the crash site and in turn threaten their livelihood, so they decide to hide their guest and learn more about him. 

The man’s name is Samara and he has managed to escape his planet where he was imprisoned. He wants to go back to release the other prisoners from a world that is similar to the kind of world modern man is progressing towards, yet it has its failings.  
One of the biggest drawbacks of this story is that the characters are not fleshed out enough and I felt no real connection with any of them. 

Chait was born in Cape Town and later emigrated to the UK. He has degrees in Microbiology & Biochemistry, and Electrical Engineering. This is his first novel.  

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers


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Book Review - Hausfrau

by Jill Alexander Essbaum (Mantle) ISBN: 9781447280804 

It is rare that a first novel is so beautifully written, rich, profound and deep. 

Anna is an American who marries Bruno and they move back to his home town in Switzerland. They have two sons and then a daughter, none of whom were planned, and one of whom is not Bruno's. Anna feels that she belong, even after being immersed in Swiss culture for nine years. 

Bruno sends her to German lessons to get her to settle in better, but she still feels lonely, bored and isolated. How she deals with this is by filling up her emptiness with sexual encounters with a few regular men. 

Anna confides in nobody, not even her psychiatrist, whom she sees because her husband wants her to stop being so miserable. Even Anna's new bubbly, kind Canadian friend, Mary, knows nothing about her secret life. How long will it take Bruno to discover her lies and indiscretions? What will Anna do when her charade is exposed? 

This is a novel so beautifully and delicately woven that the succinct final sentence, like the final thread of a quilt, sends shivers down one's spine. 

Amanda Blankfield-Koseff


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

Book Review - The Supernotes Affair

by Agent Kasper translated by John Cullen and Luigi Carletti (A&U Canongate) ISBN: 9781782115731 

Super notes are counterfeit $100 bills so authentically made that the only difference between them and the real deal is the US Mint. Agent Kasper is deployed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to pose as the co-owner of a bar by Italy’s national military police and the CIA so that he can seek out the offenders. However things go awry and without warning Kasper and his partner are detained without warning. 

The story details the detention, imprisonment and torture of Kasper in some of the worst Cambodian prisons imaginable. Without government or CIA assistance, he struggles to escape his capture while his family’s attorney in Rome tries to get him released. The story flips between his present day frustrations and suffering, and his past as he tries to identify what led up to his incarceration. 

Based on a true story, one can’t help but wonder if the nuance of the language was lost when it was translated from Italian into English. 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

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

Book Review - Entrepreneurship 101

by Joshua Maluleke (Blackbird Books) ISBN: 9781928337164

Maluleke writes the following in the Author’s Note, “The book aims to educate all South Africans about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship while looking at a uniquely South African business environment.” It is this quote that makes Maluleke’s book different from the many imported business books from top international business people. It is written for the South African market by a South African entrepreneur. 

Maluleke understands the business landscape. His experience in the business world and understanding of the problems that face South Africa’s unemployment rate is clear. His debut book provides simple and practical advice for any person who would like to own their own business. Maluleke provides advice including how to start a business, researching your market and what type of business to register. The case-studies are helpful and the templates are time-savers. 

Entrepreneurship 101 is a short, easy-to-read book but packed with relevant information for any potential business person. It is specifically recommended for the matriculant who has been pounding the pavement looking for a job. Read this book and be inspired. 

Ulrike Hill


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

Book Review - The Inheritance

by Katie Agnew (Orion) ISBN: 9781409124917

Sophia Beaumont Brown, the epitome of good girl gone bad, has led a privileged life, now marred by drugs and alcohol. Cut off from her family, Sophia continues to live a party girl existence with her best friend Hugo. 

Her grandmother, dying of terminal cancer, reaches out to Sophia through a series of memoir letters and chronicling the tale of an exquisite pearl necklace. Sophia’s grandmother expresses her need to see the pearl necklace one last time and so Sophia, with a renewed sense of life, sets off to track it down. 

I loved the themes of family and life purpose, of love and dedication spread throughout the book. As Sophia moves from her lonely and empty existence to one of redemption, I couldn’t help but cry through the last few chapters. 

It is a beautifully written book that will keep you hooked until the end so that you cannot help but cheer for Sophia, shed tears with her, and feel some part of you is her.  

Bernadette King


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

Book Review - The Thabo Mbeki I Know

Edited by Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu and Miranda Strydom (Pan Macmillan South Africa) ISBN: 9781770103412 

The Thabo Mbeki I Know is a book of 46 recollections, and two forewords, celebrating the life of President Thabo Mbeki, one of South Africa’s, and indeed Africa’s, most exceptional thought leaders. The contributors are friends, comrades, statesmen, politicians and business associates who knew him as a young man, in South Africa and in exile, and those who met him as a statesman and worked with him as an African leader. 

The book is not a whitewash nor an attempt to rewrite history in any way. You also don’t have to like Thabo Mbeki to read it and enjoy it. 

What I love most about this book is that it is a history within a history. Everybody should read it to see what this world was like through the eyes of 48 remarkable people who each have their own stories to tell. It is like travelling through time to places I’ve only heard about. Places that now have texture and substance and intimacy. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Smuts Ngonyama’s contribution as well as that of Mavuso Msimang. The Thabo Mbeki I Know provides us with an opportunity to look not only at Thabo Mbeki’s story, but at the story of the ANC, in exile and at home, as revolutionaries and as a governing party. In its own way, it is a history of the current South African government and how it ended up in its current messy state.

The photographs are a wonderful bonus, showing the man, Thabo Mbeki, as a nuanced, complex, and completely human being.

Watch the launch of the book here

Amanda Patterson

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

Book Review - Die Laughing

edited by Joanne Hichens (Tattoo Press) ISBN: 9780994680518

This collection of South African short stories is the latest from the Short. Sharp. Stories Awards, supported by the National Arts Festival. It reminded me of the early Roald Dahl short stories: uncomfortable enough to make you think, delicate enough to touch your emotions, and cleverly twisted to keep you on your toes. 

Comedy can be a delicate line to walk – what’s amusing to one person doesn’t always tickle the funny bone of the next. I didn’t connect with all of them, but I really enjoyed the sheer variety of authors and approaches to humour. Some are light and witty; others are extremely dark and satirical. There are some brilliant twists, and some excellent writing. 

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be This Is Not A Joke, Maureen by Gail Schimmel because she made me laugh at the worst possible moments, and then question why I had. 

Die Laughing is not all fun and games, but laughing into the darkness sometimes brings the light. Definitely worth a read. 


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

Book Review - The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence

by Jennifer Bell (Corgi Books) ISBN: 9780552572507

Jennifer Bell began her career in in children’s books as a specialist bookseller at Foyles in London, one of the world’s most famous bookshops. The Crooked Sixpence is the first book in The Uncommoners Series

Ivy and her brother Seb are at the hospital because their granma Sylvie has taken a fall. Ivy spots a strange man lurking in the ward, with deformed hands. That’s when things take a turn for the weird. Upon returning to their grandmother’s house, they find it has been broken into and ransacked. A large floating glossy black feather has scratched “We can see you now” into the wallpaper. 

They evade the two men in black uniforms that appear on the doorstep by jumping into a magical suitcase. It takes them to the world of Lundinor, a giant market beneath London where uncommon, magical objects are traded. 

Ivy and Seb have to race against the clock to save their parents, who have been kidnapped by a dark guild within Lundinor. As they venture on, they learn more about their family heritage and make some interesting friends along the way. 

Exhilarating and enchanting, my children of nine and eleven were hooked from the first page. 

Ewa Fabris


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Book Review - Bullseye

by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge (Century) ISBN 978-1-78-089273-3

Michael Bennett returns in this action-packed story, this time to stop an assassination attempt on the US president. 

Similar to most of the stories in the series, Mike showcases his incredible detective skills as, together with the NYPD, he goes on a hunt to not only prevent the assassination attempt, but to figure out exactly who is behind it. With many more characters than normal, I was confused as suspects kept changing and people were cleared. As he delves deeper, he discovers that a couple might actually be behind the assassination attempt. 

There isn’t much movement in Bennett’s family drama, or further clarification in his on/off relationship with Mary Catherine. However the subplot line does offer some insight into the older children. 

Although the ending felt rather abrupt, as if things weren’t wrapped up properly, it left me waiting eagerly for the next mission. 

Bullseye is an overall good read for Michael Bennett fans. 

Alicia Sibanda


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

Book Review - Be Frank With Me

by Julia Claiborne Johnson (Corvus) ISBN: 9781782399179

Julia Claiborne Johnson is an American journalist and this is her debut novel.
Mimi, known as M.M. Banning, is another Harper Lee. She is a reclusive writer who had one literary bestseller. Mimi decides to write a second novel, because she has lost all her money. Upon her request, her editor sends his own assistant Alice, so Mimi can meet her deadline. 

Alice has to look after Mimi’s nine-year-old autistic son, Frank. He is intelligent and unusual, because he dresses like a 1930s movie star. Despite his tantrums, he is lovable and funny. Be Frank With Me refers to his need for honesty. 

The story sounds appealing, but I struggled through the first part, because Frank is a walking encyclopaedia. The information is overwhelming and it does not blend in naturally. The narrative then becomes a bit lengthy.

The novel is well-written, but when I was reading the blurb, I expected a book like Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It did not live up to my expectations.  

Pauline Vijverberg


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