A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa

by Nicholas Drayson (Penguin) ISBN 9780670920099

 

This story recaptures the mood of the 1940s and '50s in Kenya.

 

Each chapter begins with a clever quote about animals depicting the meaning behind that chapter. Mr Malik, the main character, is a member of the Ashoi Club - originally a hundred-year-old gentlemen's club. Mr Malik and his friends meet there for billiards, most social events, and important debates about the unsolved murder of Lord Erroll.

 

We are taken on an old-style safari with large tents and a cook. The author describes the animals and countryside in a picturesque and humorous manner. He depicts the characters in the story as refined gentlemen with good old-fashioned manners, while he exposes the hypocrisy of the men in government. Everyone seems so polite - but they are really tongue-in-cheek.

 

After some mysterious happenings, Mr Malik feels he must move with the times: the old will be replaced by the new...or will it?

 

A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa is a charming story that is well-written and refreshing in today's harsh world.

 

Dawn Blankfield

3/5

 

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

Attuned Leadership

by Reuel J Khosa (Penguin) ISBN 9780143528197 

This book is supposed to be about incorporating Ubuntu into Capitalism. 

I think the intent is to emulate Malcolm Gladwell and create the success and hype of an African Outliers. However, it is written in such a highbrow style that anyone who could benefit from reading this book will be bored to tears after the introduction. This book is aimed at young black, and white, professionals but will only be read by balding white professors. 

It is badly written with dense pages of facts, endless philosophising, and never-ending sentences.  It should be inspirational non-fiction but it comes off as purely factual with no analysis or insight. This is a good idea, badly executed. 

It is clear that a lot of time, effort, and research has been put into this book, but none in putting it together. It’s a self-indulgent work, perhaps interesting to a handful of people. If it sells at all it will sell to an ever-diminishing group of historians and academics. Khosa has not reached the people he wants to reach. 

Anything that has a glossary and several appendices of over 100 pages should be sold in an academic bookshop and not inflicted on the general public. If you’re looking for a unique perspective of irrelevant and boring events described in painful detail this is a great read for you. 

Christopher Dean
1/5

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 - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

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

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

Various Pets Alive & Dead

by Marina Lewycka (Penguin) ISBN 9781905490912

 

Lewycka’s fourth book is uninspired and full of clichés, but maybe I just did not ‘get’ it. 

 

What I am looking for in a novel is something that touches the soul, that comes from within, whichever source that might be, something that makes me laugh out loud or makes me cry. Various Pets Alive & Dead did not move me, did not make me laugh and I found it a complete waste of time. 

 

If anyone wants to give it a try: The story is told in five parts, through several viewpoints, set in the economic crisis year 2008. Doro and Marcus are stereotypical parents from the hippie era who lived in a commune with their own children, Serge and Clara, and Oolie a Down’s syndrome girl, whom they co-parent.

 

Serge is an analyst at an investment bank, too scared to tell his parents about his materialistic job. Clara is a school teacher trying to bring order to her life and Oolie is the handicapped adult desperate to move out and become independent. Her voice is the most sincere. The various pets of the title are an unnecessary distraction.

 

Lewycka was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her debut, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

2/5

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

Between a Mother and her Child

by Elizabeth Noble (Penguin) ISBN: 9780718155377 R195 



Maggie & Bill have a good life. Wealthy, privileged, and still in love after 20 years, their marriage is almost perfect. Isn’t it? 
Then Jake, their eldest son, dies. Maggie sacrificed her career as an Australian Olympic swimmer for Bill when she became pregnant. She moved to London with him and settled into her new role. She never regretted it. But now, after their beautiful son’s death, what does it all mean? 

Two years later, their daughter, Aly continues to achieve. Stan is a special needs child, and Maggie and Bill deal with that too. But the loss exposes cracks in their relationships. Tiny fissures that weren’t noticeable before. But the new emotions push through relentlessly, and change whatever is left of those bonds as well. 

Maggie asks Bill to leave. He copes by talking, and doing. She wants to be left alone. Olivia, Maggie’s sister, arrives from Australia for Christmas, and a slow healing process takes shape.  Elizabeth Noble has tackled a difficult subject. She dissects the layers of grief through a parent’s worst nightmare - the death of a child. There is a truth in her writing and you will feel heartbroken, and then hopeful, after reading this novel. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

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

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