These are the last three books I have read,
‘Letter to my Daughter’
It is an interesting concept to have a book which deals with a mother sharing her story with her daughter written by a man*. George Bishop writes a very credible story, he had all the potential for a very memorable book but surprised me with the abrupt ending. I was really getting involved with the story and looking forward to the rest of the mothers’ tale when, with a few lines the story ended leaving me feeling rather deflated and perplexed. It is a very quick read, a rainy afternoon is all that is needed.
The topic is rather harrowing, a mother and a son who live in a room cut off from the outside world, except for a TV and visitations by the man who kidnapped the mother years previously and is keeping her prisoner while abusing her. The boy is his son and is the only thing that keeps the mother focused on one day getting out. The story is told by the little boy who is 5 and is in a childlike vernacular. I really struggled to read this and it took me almost half the book before I was comfortable with the writing. It is an interesting read with bits that made me feel rather uncomfortable but not repulsed. It is a well crafted tale which was worth the effort.
‘Jelly Dog Days’
This is my Local Author choice. Erica Emdon lives in Johannesburg and works as a public interest lawyer at a non-governmental organisation which focuses on children’s and women’s rights.
“Reading Erica Emdon’s début novel, first published in 2009 and now released in paperback, is like looking at a beautifully painted landscape with dark, ominous clouds lurking in the background.”
I love to read books that draw you in from the very first line and never let go until the last full stop. This is one such book.
It is the tale of Theresa Stephanie Victoria Mary Ryman who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, the child of a working class family with a dysfunctional mother, a stepfather and 4 siblings. She learns very early on that childhood, at least for her, is a matter of survival, and that those who are meant to protect and care for her increasingly exploit her.
For those of us who grew up during this time it reflects so much of the way of life, the attitudes of adults toward children, men to women, teachers to pupils, whites to black and it deals briefly with the Soweto Riots which involve the one person Terry can confide in and trust – the family’s nanny and maid, Sophie. Sophie’s son Rex disappears during the riots.
Terry’s resilience, intelligence and fortitude make her the heartbreaking heroine of the story and despite everything the universe throws at her she finds the strength to cope and to survive. This is an intense read which deals with the effect of abuse and betrayal on a young child. The story does have a happy ending, although it is not a traditional happy ending but rather a coming to terms with the fact that you are what life has made you, you accept that, deal with it, put it behind you and strive to be the best person you can be.
* Wally Lamb, with his amazing ‘She’s Come Undone’ is another author who writes from the perspective of woman. If you have not read this book, please add it to your ‘must read’ list.