Before we say goodbye

Helping my mother to die by Sean Davison (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-353056-5

 

Dr Pat Ferguson, eighty four years old and terminally ill with cancer, wants nothing more than for her joyless life to be over.

 

When her ailing body refuses to go she asks her son, Sean to do the unthinkable thing and that is to help her die. Sean is based at the University in Cape Town and makes the decision to leave South Africa behind while he visits his mother in New Zealand.

 

Written as a diary it candidly recounts Davison’s emotional struggle at that time. Sean is married to Raine and they have two young boys. He longs to be home with his family and familiar daily life as a Professor of Biotechnology where he heads the DNA Forensics Lab. He has initiated a project to prove the innocence of people wrongfully convicted of crimes by using DNA testing at the time of their conviction. Is it strange that such a man, who shows compassion daily in his job, should be the son who has the sympathy and guts to help his near death mother?

 

This is very thought provoking book. It shows how life goes on every day in spite of pain and lingering illness. Written in an easy way to read and understand. But oh my God, what a brave decision.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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Mr Foot’s Other Leg

by Ian Kelly (Picador) ISBN 978-0-330-51783-6 

Mr Foote, producer, writer, and actor was known for his wit on stage-mostly by people he knew. ‘I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork and fairly laugh myself out...Sirs, he is irresistible,’ said Samuel Johnson. 

The extraordinary true story of the most famous man you have never heard of, the irresistible Samuel Foot, one-legged wittiest superstar of the Georgian stage. He wrote the first true crime best seller. He coined the phrase Tea Party. 

He lost his leg after a bet with the Duke of York. The operation of the day, after a hideous fall from a horse was an unusual success. Doctors knew amputation would lead to changes in the psyche. However his wit improved and he had several wooden legs made for the stage. 

This is a hearty read that describes Mr Foot’s successful career. The story will be most enjoyable to readers who have had an interest in Georgian times. 

Dee Andrew
5/5

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Held Up

by Christopher Radman (Headline) ISBN 978-0-7553-8920-9

 

The black barrel of the snub-nosed  gun is right beside his head as he sits in his new white BMW. Paul can't think...

 

‘Maak oop,’ open the window, the blunt command comes from outside. Paul is numb, he cannot blink. Even the window is afraid. He can't stop staring at the slit through which the window has disappeared. And of course you don't look at them. These wild Africans. ‘Hande agter jou kop!’  Hands behind your head, slowly.

 

Paul has been held up. He stands and stares as the car drives off. He is dizzy. He can't hear much. And then he realises that his baby girl is still in the back of the car! What made him forget? Claire and Paul battled to have this baby. When he tells her what has happened, he can feel her blaming him. Claire, left alone in the house, decides to drown herself.

 

Paul buys a second-hand car and goes to live in Soweto in the hopes of one day finding his daughter, Chantelle, alive. He adopts a black boy called Stompie who leads him to find Chantelle, seven years later. Her name has changed. She has a native name and can speak ‘pigeon taal’.

 

This is an absolutely gripping story, covering aspects of South Africa that we never see. This book affected me greatly, and is an unforgettable read.

 

Dee Andrew

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

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The Casual Vacancy

by J K Rowling (Little Brown) ISBN 781408 704202

 

It’s amazing what anticipation and expectation can do. I could not wait to read The Casual Vacancy.

 

The village of Pogford is described in a Potterish fashion. Krystal and Fats are so selfishly involved in their teenage bumbling in the bush at the river that you just know the drama that will unfold. Due to the fact that Krystal has to drag her little brother along, they dump him on a bench near the river.

 

The whole book is peopled by similar natured people who have no sense of responsibility. I wondered as I ploughed through the book if this was meant for young adults or grownups.

 

This was an extremely difficult book to read. Abusive teenagers shout at their parents and parents use filthy language to their children. The vacancy that has become uppermost in the whole town has brought out the worst of the nature of the people .They become vultures. Rowling’s sex scenes are pathetic.

 

Don't rush to buy this book. It’s just not enjoyable.

 

Dee Andrew

1/5

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Huberta's Journey

by Cecily van Straten (Tafelberg) ISBN 978-0-62-4-05502-0

 

This is a fictionalised account of the story of Huberta the hippopotamus, one of the most famous animals in South African history.

 

Huberta left her waterhole in the St. Lucia Estuary in Natal in 1928. She set off on the 1600 km journey to the Eastern Cape - a journey which would take three years. In that time Huberta became a minor celebrity and attracted crowds. There was an attempt made to capture her and put her in the Johannesburg Zoo. After this she headed south to Durban where she visited the Durban Country Club and caused dinner guests excitement enough for them to follow her to the beach. She reached East London in March 1931.

 

Along her travels people thought she was smiling at them. She would rest her head on her front legs like a dog. In spite of the fact that she was declared Royal Game, which means she was protected, she was shot by hunters. After a public outcry, the hunters were arrested. Huberta’s body was recovered and sent to a taxidermist in London. Upon her return to South Africa she was greeted by 20,000 people and can now be seen in the Amathola Museum in Kingwilliamstown.

 

This is a brilliant abridged version of the original. I highly recommend this outstandingly simple and true story

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

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The Lost Girls Of Rome

by Donato Carrisi (Abacus) ISBN 9788-O-349-00030-5

 

A young girl has mysteriously vanished from Rome. Clement and Marcus sit in a cafe – working on the case in a rainy cafe and pore over the details. They are members of the ancient unique Italian team linked to the Vatican and trained in the detection of true evil. But they are not alone. Sandra, with a brilliant forensic background, is also working on the case.

 

When the two worlds collide they uncover a terrible secret hidden in the dark recesses of Rome. Their paths cross and not only do they make headway in the case of the missing girl, but they also uncover a terrible secret world hidden in the dark recesses of the city, and The Vatican.

 

I am not sure if I enjoyed it but I could not stop reading it. I recommend The Lost Girls of Rome if you enjoy a thriller that is very involved, has a complicated page turning plot, and lots of fascinating historical facts.

 

Dee Andrew

3/5

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Poison Heart

by S.B. Hayes (Quercus) ISBN 978-0-85738-570-3

 

Poison Heart is well-written with a plot that can only be described as engrossing. This Young Adult novel is easy to read and I became involved with Katy’s story of horror when she finds a girl, so like herself, setting out to destroy her life. Wherever Katy turns, Genevieve is there - at school, with her friends, her mother, and her boyfriend, Merlin.

 

Katy’s mother, a tragic figure who rarely leaves the house, is so well portrayed you can feel her nervousness. There is a secret that involves all three of them. Luke, the boy next door to Katy, is her sounding board in spite of Katy’s relationship with Merlin.

 

This novel is packed with suspense and atmosphere and the tension is almost unbearable. There is a scene in the book that stands out - the writing brings out all the beauty of a black night with frozen stars in a night sky and a demented girl skating on thin ice. I cannot give more of the plot away. It is twisted and frightening and well worth reading.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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Winter of the World

by Ken Follett (Macmillan) ISBN 978-0-2230-71010-8

 

When you start reading this huge book, make up your mind that you will finish it. It is an awesome story of five families who live out their destinies as the world is shaken by war.

 

Just holding the book was a task in itself and you realise that the author’s research on each family is quite remarkable.  I loved every moment of the story and could visualise each family’s hardships and successes. Hitler strengthens his grip on Germany, and I was swept along by the clashes of military might that rage from London to Pearl Harbour, from Spain to Stalingrad.

 

The frightened people who rise above starvation are so real that I feel as if I have known them forever. The dazzling American socialite called Daisy grows up before your eyes. Her shallow aristocratic husband, Boy Fitz Herbert, is a typical man of those times. The women scientists also amaze the reader with their brains and beauty. 

 

This is far too big a work to comment on in depth, except to say it is a fantastic read and once begun you will not put it down.

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

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Not Dead Yet

by Peter James (Macmillan) ISBN 978-0-230-74727-2

 

Gia, a world famous Hollywood star, is filming in Brighton. She plays the Queen to the King and they are shooting the movie under an enormous chandelier that hangs over a banqueting table. Everyone is jealous of the actress and her life is at stake. Even with guards on the movie set old flames are out to destroy her.

 

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace has his work cut out keeping the murderers at bay. There is a story within a story as Grace’s old wife hasn’t been seen for years. He and his new wife are ecstatic at the thought of a new baby on the way. He is selling his house and a mysterious buyer says hello to Grace’s fish, which is very strange.

 

Gia is kidnapped and the police pursue her through a labyrinth of tunnels until Grace becomes fade to face with the killer.   You cannot put this book down and even when you reach the end you find you are holding onto the book for all its worth, the suspense is so well described.

 

There are unexpected thrills all through the novel and everything seems very real. A fabulous read.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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Park Lane

by Frances Osborne (Virago) ISBN 9 781844 084784

 

London. 1914. Lady Masters is head of one of those establishments who insists life is about service and duty. Those were the days when you tiptoed because to make a noise when you walked was absolutely “not done'’ by the well-bred young women who must never marry beneath themselves. The suffragettes are on the march and war looms. Two young women dream of breaking free from tradition and obligation.

 

Bea gets crushed against the railings in the crowd that masses toward Mrs Pankhurst. Mrs Pankhurst’s war is to free women who are considered chattels. Bea meets an unsuitable man in the crowd. You can hardly breathe at the descriptions of the pushing and shoving crowd.

 

Below stairs in the establishment is Grace, whose family thinks she is a secretary, not a chamber maid. She can’t find enough money to send home. She falls pregnant and vanishes.

 

The war comes with all its agony. Everyone has to help. This is a book you don’t want to put down and when you finish it you feel as though your life has gone back centuries. I tiptoed to the bookshelf to put it away gently. Osborne is brilliant at descriptions of the suffragettes and the terror of war. She captures the relationships of the era perfectly.

 

Dee Andrew

4.5/5

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