Book Review - The Peculiars

by Jen Thorpe (Penguin) ISBN: 978485903406 

This debut novel, set in Cape Town, is a light-hearted story of how people deal with their fears. 

Unconventional Ruby is the director of the Centre for Improved Living. The centre coordinates a few studies a year and conducts therapy sessions for the participants to improve their lives. Ruby and her team choose a group of sixteen people who have to learn to overcome their phobias during the course of six weeks. 

Nazma has a fear of driving and Sam has a fear of being robbed, but as with all phobias it’s more complicated than just being afraid of something. That’s where the value of this book comes in. It’s a refreshing take on courage and perseverance. 

The story is narrated through the alternating viewpoints of Ruby, Nazma and Sam, each chapter subtitled with a different phobia, which gives it a charming twist. Will their phobias turn into philias? 

Charming and lovely, this is a feel good story that deals with a serious subject matter. Thorpe has published this book as part of the UCT creative writing class with Imraan Coovadia. 

Pauline Vijverberg

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