Last Man in Tower

by Aravind Adiga (Penguin) R200 ISBN: 9781848875173


In 2008 Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his debut White Tiger. His new book is set around the depilated building, Tower A of the Vishram Society in the heart of Mumbai.


The residents have learned to live with the shortcomings of their flat, until a real estate developer offers them a large amount for their homes under two conditions: they all have to agree and there is a deadline. The viewpoint shifts between a few residents who all ponder the offer.


In five months the dynamics within the flat change: the residents especially turn against Masterji, the old teacher, who lost his daughter and wife. He is the only one not wanting to sell: he does not want to part with his memories and he sees no advantage in leaving. He thinks he is fighting against greed and corruption.


Adiga makes some characters come to life with their behaviour, for example when they delve into their neighbour’s rubbish and draw conclusions from their finds.


His descriptions are colourful and the petty fights of the neighbours are amusing, but also take a lot of space in the book and I found my thoughts drifting in the middle of the book.

Recommended, ‘when nothing else available’.


Pauline Vijverberg


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Next To Love

by Ellen Feldman (Picador) ISBN: 9780330544504 

After her success with Scottsboro, shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and The Boy who Loved Anne Frank, Feldman has written a story about three friends, Babe, Millie and Grace, in a small city in Massachusetts. 

It starts in a promising way when Babe, working as a telegraph operator in 1944 is the first one to know who in town has lost a husband, father, or son. For the three friends the war is an end and a beginning in their lives. 

The viewpoint alternates between the three women, but Babe was the central figure for me. She is in many ways an outsider, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Each character struggles with different issues in the following twenty years. 

The plot is influenced by the political and economic atmosphere of the time, but I did not feel connected to the characters. Points in history that interest me are just mentioned in the side-line. I would have liked to know less about Grace and Millie and more about the black domestic worker Naomi and her son who is involved in the civil right movement. 

Overall the book is entertaining, but not unforgettable. 

Pauline Vijverberg

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

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot (Pan) ISBN: 9780330533447

Hardly anyone knows Henrietta Lacks, but we have all profited from her cells: the so-called HeLa cells were significant in the medical breakthrough of the polio vaccine.

They have been growing for almost sixty years. They have been on the moon and they have been exposed to nuclear testing. They stay young, unlike normal cells, and are in that sense immortal. Ever since hearing of the cells in her biology class, Skloot has been fascinated by it. She wrote a brilliant, moving story, combining scientific non-fiction with the history of the Lacks family.

Henrietta died in 1951 of cervical cancer and without her knowledge or the knowledge or consent of her family, cancer cells were removed. Skloot describes what the implications were for the family and the dark, ethical question of experimenting with Afro-Americans.

What appealed to me most is the sincerity and integrity with which Skloot has addressed this ethical issue. With her book she has brought attention to the problem, but at the same time she told the story of life in poverty of a black family in America, full of abuse and hopelessness. Well written and well researched a book I keep thinking about. Everyone should read it.

Pauline Vijverberg

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