As we settle into April, the season is definitely changing and it is time to share a stack of my summer reads. My goodness if you read nothing else please put “When the Village Sleeps” straight onto your must read pile… a wonderful and moving, truly South African story.
My Summer Reading Stack from Pan Macmillan South Africa.
When the Village Sleeps
I cannot begin to express how very much I loved this story, it is the story of tragedy to triumph in all sorts of unexpected ways. It is the story of South African township life, written from the perspective of a township teenager and her personal journey through school and into womanhood. It is hard, it is tough and it is real and my goodness… stories like these need to be told. Busi, short for Busisiwe is a young girl, growing up in Khayalitsha. Her granny worked as a domestic worker for Mrs Bird in Bishopscourt, and she kindly pays Busi’s school fees. As happens over time, Busi’s granny and Mrs Bird are best of friends, even though their worlds never meet. It is a narrative that South Africans are very familiar with and one that needs to be written from all perspectives.
Busi is a feisty young girl with everything going for her, and yet she can’t fit in anywhere. She doesn’t fit into the Model C school she attends, because she lives in a township and she doesn’t fit into the township because she attends a Model C school, that she taxis to each day. This is all fine when you are small, but as an emerging teenager it matters on every level. On Saturday mornings when the whole family is out working or her brothers and cousins are out feasting at local funerals, she has to stay home and in far from ideal conditions, do the family housework for the entire week. This is a tough call, she loves the freedom of no one else at home and she desperately hates that she has to do all the work. The only way out she realises would be if she fell pregnant, she could earn money from the monthly government stipend and find her freedom. Only too late does she discover that the monthly hand-out is not enough for a bag of diapers, let alone enough to give her the high life she was hoping for.
The book looks at three generations: Busiswe’s grandma, Busiswe and her unwanted, and then extremely loved child. This book is about unexpected heroines, it is about family connections no matter what, friendship and survival. I loved it and will definitely seek out other books by Sindiwe Magona. I really feel we need so many more novels like these, in a country like South Africa, with the melting pot of cultures, we need stories written form every perspective and lots of them, just to gain a better understanding of each other.
You totally had me at the title with this one…it wasn’t what I expected at all, and I really enjoyed reading it. It is a short novel set in a countryside camp park in Scotland. While the book is called Summertime, it buckets down with rain throughout. Each chapter feels like a short story, but somehow they all entwine together. There are tales of everyday people, living out their every day summer holidays… only there is no such thing as an ordinary life. Each chapter is written from a different perspective… a running mom, an elderly couple, a teenage lad… there are some annoyingly loud foreigners in the campsite and the fact that they are noisy and/or foreign sets up a level of dislike and mistrust in the campsite. One can’t help but wonder if anything sinister is going to happen… the tension builds throughout the book. The characters are so real, not necessarily nice, but you feel like you know them, the setting is vivid the rain relentless and there is this building tension in the air… there is a dramatic ending and you can only imagine what how this group of eclectic strangers are now bound together by their summer holiday. Excellent read, not a lot to do with summer or water, and everything to do with people, relationships and how we are drawn together.
Circus of Wonders
This book gets a WOW and yes, you can judge a book by it’s beautiful cover. I flew into it, with my usual new-book enthusiasm, and I loved it… a gothic tale, set in 1866, that could only have a tragic ending. It is the story of a young and awkward looking girl, whose body was covered in birthmarks and nobody wants to know her. She was sold by her father for twenty pounds to the local circus. If the circus owner, Jasper, was clever she could or make or break his show. Jasper wants to own her in every sense, but his brother Toby captures her heart… this is a story of unrequited love. And what made me slow down and battle to read this book was the trade in humans, the grotesque obsession with the macabre for anyone with a different body, who was put on display to be viscously examined by the public… it was slavery in every sense and I could not foresee a good outcome. Spoiler alert, there isn’t a good outcome… the brothers’ past from the Crimean War hangs over their lives like a dark cloud and nothing good could come from their tangled relationships. This was indeed a harder read than I expected. That being said, what a powerful theme, and when people are used and abused for the “greater good” or “entertainment” we have to believe that things will come toppling down around them.
The Secret Path
I knew when I read The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan, last year, that I had discovered an author that I liked. Her books are literally travel holidays to “off the beaten track” locations… Great holiday reads, in holiday destinations that most of us would never have thought of visiting. The Secret Path is the story of a young medical student, Tara Tremain, who is madly in love… only to discover that her that her potential fiancé has done more than a little background checking, and that he is more interested in her father’s wealth than in her. Alex is young and ambitious and is dead set on turning vast tracts of land in Costa Rico into a wildlife sanctuary. Ten years later, Tara is now a renowned surgeon in desperate need of a holiday. She never got over her betrayal, but pushed onwards and upwards with her career. Where does she go? Well of course, she returns to the land of childhood vacations and finds herself, yet again saving lives, only this time in the hot and untamed jungles. Things escalate fast and Tara has a lot of loose ends to tie up, before we run out of story… it is fast paced, action packed, tense and of course, beautiful surroundings. Who wouldn’t want to be off adventuring, only this adventure turns out not to be for the faint-hearted at all. Excellent, snappy read… pure adventure, loads of drama and a great escape.
Amazon Affiliate Links for Books Mentioned in This Post.
These books were given to us for review purposes by Pan Macmillan South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.