A Gift of Hope

by Danielle Steel (Bantam Press) ISBN: 97805930682501R250

 

After the suicide of her teenage son and her marriage falling apart, Danielle Steel decided to distract herself from her own grief by helping others.

 

With a friend, she drove an anonymous van into San Francisco on an icy cold night before Christmas to hand out new jackets, sleeping bags, gloves and socks to the city’s homeless. She thought it would a one-time thing—but what she saw on the streets made her realise that—more than basic supplies and a warm jacket—these people needed to know someone cared for them. Soon after she had funded and organised a team dedicated volunteers to expand the outreach programme called Yo!Angels. It ran for eleven years.

 

As America’s third highest earning author, Steel could easily have chosen a flashy charity to support. Instead, she chose to work one-on-one with the most forgotten and neglected people, those we don’t want to acknowledge—much less care about. Her team handed out supplies without asking in return. She felt she had no right to ask any homeless person his story, as privacy was probably the last shred of dignity he had.

 

Steel also delivers some pragmatic insight into the homeless dilemma: Sometimes homeless people end up on the street not because they have nowhere else to go, but because there is no other place they fit in. “Homelessness is not just about not having a job or an apartment,” she writes. “Too often it is due to a disordered mind.” In part, she wrote this book as an act of advocacy—as a call for mental health reform, a plea for compassion.

 

As a South African living in a big city, this book rattles the conscience. If there are 20, 000 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, how many need help—and hope—in a city like Johannesburg?

 

Anthony Ehlers

5/5

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Friends Forever

by Danielle Steel (Bantam) ISBN: 9780593056844 R195-00

 

Danielle Steel’s new novel is about the role friendship plays on life’s journey — and navigating the challenges we all face in our earlier years.  Five children meet and bond on their first day at Atwood School, a prestigious co-ed school in San Francisco.Friends Forever follows them from kindergarten to graduation and young adulthood.

 

It sounds like the perfect recipe for a warm, rich saga about friendship, love and survival. It will probably recall some fond memories of school friendships for many readers. However, the book is far too short to capture the narrative arc of five different characters. The result is episodic, messy and somewhat disappointing. Did the author write it in a rush to meet a publishing deadline? Or was the premise too thin to begin with?

 

Even die-hard Danielle Steel fans will feel a bit let down with this one, but for the less militant romance readers, the book will provide a few hours of breezy, enjoyable and entirely forgettable escapism.

 

Anthony Ehlers

2/5

 

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Writers Write - Write to communicate

The Bomber

by Liza Marklund (Bantam Press) ISBN: 9780593067949

 

A woman in charge in a male dominated environment impacts people in different ways. This premise connects the author, the hero, the victims and the perpetrator in The Bomber, Liza Marklund’s first novel featuring Annika Bengtzon, crime reporter.

 

An explosion takes place in the Olympic Stadium that has been built in preparation for the Swedish Olympics. The deadly victim is the Head of the Olympic Committee. Where most people believe it to be a terrorist attack against the Olympics, Annika suspects it is a personal attack.

 

When a second bomb explodes at another Olympic venue, killing another Committee employee, Annika seems to be on the wrong track. At least that is what her male colleagues at the Evening Post like to rub in. But if she’s on the wrong track then why does she become the bomber’s next target?

 

While getting to grips with this story Annika is juggling the demands of family life with the pressure of being newly in charge of the crime desk much to the chagrin of some colleagues. Marklund’s newspaper experience shines through in the book, making Annika’s exploits feel real.

 

The story is smart and fast-paced. More than by the woman-in-charge angle, I was intrigued by how the author deals with the concept of victim turning perpetrator turning victim. An enjoyable read.

 

Josine Overdevest

3/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za