Book Review - Born A Crime

by Trevor Noah (Macmillan) ISBN: 139781770105065


Comedians are storytellers and some are better at it than others. 

Trevor Noah is a consummate teller of tales whose thoughtful comedy routines are carefully plotted and set up before he delivers the punch line. He seldom resorts to slapstick, hysteria, or profanity. He is seldom distracted. This ability to tell a linear story is perfect for translating material from his life and his routines into his memoir.

He writes beautifully. The simplicity of his technique allows the complexity of his narrative to shine through. Born A Crime is the story of Patricia Noah and her son, Trevor. It is about looking for a place to call home, and of wanting to belong. As much as Trevor Noah was defined by being born a crime in South Africa, he is even more defined by his mother and her journey, which became their journey. 

His story will resonate with any thinking South African. He manages to put so much of who we are into this book - a fractured people divided by colour, by tribe, and by language. The apartheid system separated everybody, black from white from Indian from coloured, and then divided us further by language. But we are also united because we witnessed it. 

Born A Crime is Noah’s testimony. It is brave and funny. Read it. Buy it for somebody you love. You won’t regret it.

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
5/5

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

Book Review - South

by Frank Owen (Corvus) ISBN: 9781782399612


South is set in America sometime in the future. It's been 30 years since the first wind-borne viruses ended the civil war between North and South, and still the sicknesses come. Every wind from the north brings a new way to die. The few survivors live in constant fear, hiding from the wind and from each other. 

Brothers, Garrett and Dyce Jackson are on the run when they meet Vida, a lone traveller on a quest to save her mother. South has so much potential and it is so disappointing when it doesn’t work. The plotting is erratic and I wasn’t sure if there was one. There also could have been more attention to world building in this dystopian setting. 

Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer are the two authors who write as Frank Owen, and I think this is at the heart of my problem with the novel. South struggles against itself, changing in pace and style like a schizophrenic who may or may not be on his meds. There are times when the genre works and moves along briskly and then times when we are stuck in pages and pages of the description of the inside of a house. 

I am not sure if the book needed more editing or if the two should rather write alone. I loved Alex Latimer’s The Space Race and so I tend to think it may be the latter. 

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
2/5

This is a harsh story told harshly. In a dystopian environment where people distrust each other and life is cheap it is easy to imagine nothing will end well, for anybody. This is Deliverance (James Dickey) meets The Road ( Cormac McCarthy). 

The throw away comments regarding a South African origin and the search for muti will, in all likelihood, be lost on an American readership. The spoken language used by the characters comes straight out a hillbilly sitcom. 

It’s written exceptionally well, though; a Southern Belle’s fine filigree white lace handkerchief, nearly black from over use as a body wipe, crusted with layers of infectious snot, that pulls, tugs, entices me to the next awful page, drawn by a macabre curiosity as to just how bad can this really get. 

It’s always good to stretch oneself into reading something outside ones usual genre, and it’s a brave tale. 

Julie Suddaby
www.writerswrite.co.za 
3/5

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

Book Review - Different Class

by Joanne Harris (Doubleday) ISBN: 9780385619233


If you’ve read Gentlemen And Players and blueeyedboy, you will be familiar with the setting in this book, St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys, set in the fictional Yorkshire village of Malbry.

As Joanne Harris says, ‘The books all stand alone. However, to put it into context, this book follows a year after Gentlemen And Players, and four years before blueeyedboy, and features some characters from both books.’

In Different Class, our hero, Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for 30 years. He is alarmed when he finds out that the new head is a former pupil, Johnny Harrington. ‘That pale-faced, bland, insufferable boy, with his impeccable uniform and his air of barely concealed contempt. How I hated him, then and now - and as he came towards me... I felt the past rush in on me like a cloud of mustard gas.’

Roy still sees the troublemaker when he looks at the new head, but everybody else is charmed by him. Harrington has big plans to bring the school, which has suffered a number of setbacks, firmly into the 21st Century. Straightly, who remembers every detail of the scandal surrounding the boy’s time at St Oswald’s, reluctantly takes up arms against his old adversary.

Harris has written in many genres, but her strength lies in psychological suspense, of which there is plenty in this book. The twists in the plot and the skilled narrative will keep you off balance and hooked until the end. I should mention that both Gentlemen And Players and blueeyedboy are listed in the 48 books on my ‘Books I Remember’ shelf on Goodreads, so it won’t come as a surprise when I give this novel 5/5. 

Joanne Harris writes in a class of her own and I highly recommend you buy and read this book. 

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
5/5

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

Book Review - A Robot In The Garden

by Deborah Install (Doubleday) ISBN 9780857523020 


Ben lives in Berkshire with his wife, Amy in the home he has inherited from his parents. Ben does not work, but thinks he would like to be a vet. Amy is a successful lawyer. The couple are not happy, but Ben seems oblivious to the dire state of his marriage. 

Then a robot appears in their garden. This is not as odd as it sounds because the book is speculative fiction, set in the future or an alternative present, where every household has an android helper. For the first time in years, Ben is intrigued. Amy is not. She is not interested in the battered machine and longs for an android, which Ben refuses to get.

Ben's obsession with the robot who seems to think his name is Tang, is the last straw for Amy and she leaves. Ben decides to try to find Tang's manufacturer because he seems to be running out of an unidentifiable fluid that keeps him going. Concerned for his new companion's well-being, he takes Tang to America in search of his maker.

Along the way, Ben rediscovers his humanity. Tang, who is more human than most people, teaches Ben to stop living like a robot. I loved this charming, whimsical book.

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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Set in the not too distant future when all houses have an android for a servant, Ben meets Tang in his garden. Tang is a robot, an old, retro robot, with a leaky cylinder. Tang is damaged and helping him gives Ben a purpose. 

Amy, Ben’s wife is less than impressed with her husband’s new obsession and leaves him. It’s not the only reason for her leaving, but let’s say it was the last straw. Ben and Tang set off on a world-wide adventure to find Tang’s creator. 

I am in love, with a robot and this just when I had sworn off all pre-midlife male stories. Ben has to grow up and deal with his repressed grief and Tang, an evolving child-like robot, helps him and forces him back into the world he has been avoiding. 

There are plenty of coincidences and the story has a deceptive simplicity to it, but I had a goofy grin on my face all the way through. And as the mother of two evolving humans Deborah got the tangtrum, question-asking, gaffer-tape fiddling, leg swinging aspect just right. Well done, Ms Install. I look forward to your next offering. 

Mia Botha
www.writerswrite.co.za 
4/5

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

Book Review - Even Dogs In The Wild

by Ian Rankin (Orion) ISBN: 9781409159360
 

Rebus, now retired, somehow ends up consulting for DI Siobhan Clarke when his nemesis, gangster Big Ger Cafferty is almost shot. This is linked to a series of deaths of prominent men in Edinburgh. How are they connected? 

DI Malcolm Fox is helping a team of undercover detectives from Glasgow who are trying to bring down a gang of mobsters. Fox is soon asking too many unwanted questions and he is drawn into the case which seems to be on a collision course with Rebus's. 

Hard-drinking Rebus and tee-totalling Fox have put their enmity behind them and work together. As the series progresses, we see how similar the seemingly different men are. Their dogged determination and their keen intelligence ensure that both solve their cases. 

I am a die-hard Rebus fan. I hope that Rankin has a few more stories where he can team Rebus up with Clarke and Fox. Even Dogs In The Wild is the 20th book in the series. May there be many more.

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
4/5

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

Book Review - The Accident Season

by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Corgi) ISBN: 9780552571302 


Every October, Cara's life is turned upside down by the accident season. Her family, including her mother, her sister, Alice, and her step-brother, Sam are plagued by accidents. Towards the end of the month, they are haunted by memories of relatives who have died at this time. 

This year is different though and 17-year-old Cara has to face the truth about the present and the past. There are only so many knives you can lock away, bridges you can’t cross, and electrical appliance you avoid using. There’s also the new problem of the elusive Elsie who seems to be following Cara everywhere, and popping up in all her photographs. 

The Accident Season is a book about secrets that should not be kept and the devastation they eventually cause. 

I expected more from this whimsical book. It was highly recommended, and the writing was quite beautiful, but I must admit to being bored through most of it. 

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
2/5

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

Book Review - Fates and Furies

by Lauren Groff (William Heinemann) ISBN 9781785150159
 

This is the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s marriage. It is an elaborately, deliberately written book about how partners in marriage can only know ‘the other’ they are permitted to see. We cannot experience their past lives, and even what we are told is skewed by memory and perspective. 

Fates, the first part of the book is told through Lotto’s eyes. Furies, through Mathilde’s. 

Lotto and Mathilde are both breathtakingly, strikingly beautiful. Larger than life, their marriage is envied and their devotion to each other never questioned. But both are fundamentally damaged by childhood tragedies – some mentioned, others hidden. We follow their story as the couple grow together over two decades. 

It took me more than a month to fully commit to the book because of the pretentious literary theatrics employed by Groff.  It takes strength to plough through the omniscient narrator asides, the story within story outlining of Lotto’s plays, and the sheer excess of literary and mythological references. It was exhausting at times. 

But I eventually read it and liked it because of the characters and the story. 

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za 
3/5

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

Book Review - The Circle

by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton) ISBN: 9780241146491 


Mae Holland has finished college heavily in debt, but thanks to her friend, Annie, one of the Gang of 40 in The Circle, she is able to leave her awful job and starting working for the most admired company in America. The Circle is a Google-like entity that has overtaken all other social media and Internet companies thanks to its genius founder, Ty Gospodinov, one of the Three Wise Men who own it. He has created a revolutionary universal operating system which gives users one online identity. This gives way to a new age of civility (no more trolls) and transparency.

The Circle is a paradise filled with beautiful office spaces. Employees attend nightly parties, or listen to famous musicians playing on the lawn – a different one every day - or join athletic activities and clubs, and attend endless dinners and brunches. There is medical care, nutritional advice, and everything you could wish for on the campus. Mae has to work hard, and almost obsessively interact within The Circle. 

Life beyond the company grows distant, and after an incident where she is almost arrested, she is more than happy to become the first ‘transparent’ employee at The Circle. She is terrified of losing her job and the health care benefits for her ill father. Her life is placed under scrutiny, as she wears a camera that shows everything she does to millions of Circlers around the planet. Mae becomes the beloved face of The Circle.

Soon, the world starts closing in, as the Circle gets politicians to wear the same device. There seems to be nowhere to hide with cameras popping up all over the world. Nobody can disappear, as Mae finds out when an ex-boyfriend of hers tries to drop off the grid. Where will it end?

This is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World filled with too much information, coupled with George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ from 1984. This dark satire is well-written and worth reading. The Circle is probably just around the corner.

Amanda Patterson
www.writerswrite.co.za
4.5/5

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I think is my favourite book of the year. It’s like reading George Orwell’s 1984. It’s so ludicrous it’ll never happen, right? Right? 
When Mae is hired by the most powerful internet company she is thrilled. It is a company that celebrates transparency and connectivity. Who doesn’t want to share everything? Show everything? 

Mia Botha
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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

Book Review - A Conspiracy Of Alchemists

(Book One of The Chronicles of Light and Shadow) by Liesel Schwarz (Del Rey) ISBN 9780091949860 

Elle Chance, the spirited daughter of a brilliant scientist, is a dirigible pilot in 1903. It is the time of Nightwalkers, Alchemists, and Warlocks. A battle between Light and Shadow is about to begin, but Elle doesn’t know that. Yet. 

Elle is sometimes forced to accept suspect customers and cargo to pay for her airship. In Paris, her friend, Patrice meets her in an opium den and asks her to transport a small box for him. Her payment is a beautiful diamond bracelet. As Elle puts it on an absinthe fairy flies into the diamonds. Elle can’t get the bracelet off but she decides to deal with the problem in London. She is attacked and the box is stolen. The dashing Hugh Marsh comes to her rescue and joins Elle and Patrice as they flee to England. 

On her return she discovers that her father has been kidnapped. Determined to save him, she is drawn into the conflict between the Alchemists and the Warlocks. Elle learns, against her will, that she has a destiny to fulfil. Can the handsome, aristocratic Marsh convince her that she has the power to stop darkness being unleashed on the world? 

Schwarz creates a Steampunk world that includes history, magic, alchemy, romance, and fantasy. The charming world of steam-powered machines is well thought out and mostly plausible. A Conspiracy of Alchemists is an excellent debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more from this South African author.

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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