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Book Reviews

South West Reading PassportDuring the Olympic summer people from all over the South West read and wrote reviews about books from around the world. Some of these reviews can be read here and many others will be added in the coming weeks.

Africa book list image - PDF icon (47KB - pdf help)

House of Stone by Christina Lamb

Very disturbing, graphic and honest. Truly shows you never understand another’s life unless you have walked in their shoes. I would be classed as coloured and have never been unfortunate enough to feel anything but equal to everyone.

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

A couple on holiday in Nigeria inadvertently get involved in a violent incident which changes their lives forever. Two women from very different backgrounds come together in a way they could never have imagined. A good read.

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

This shocking tale of child soldiers in Sierra Leone is bravely told. The author tells honestly of his experiences and has an incredible memory of that period of his life. He describes a beautiful country and the atrocities committed within it. It is an important lesson on the various ways in which children come to be soldiers but also how vital and difficult the rehabilitation process is. The author managed to reconnect with his humanity after all his years of fighting and he is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Written in the same light-hearted style as “No 1 Ladies Detective Agency” but with an underlying hard-hitting message. Don’t be surprised if you’re reaching for a box of tissues by the end.

A novel full of charm and gentle humour. We meet Angel’s customers as they plan celebrations and we share in their joy and sadness. It’s rich in detail – of food and customers aplenty. Fluently written. A joy.

Esther’s Inheritance by Sándor Márai

This story takes place on the day of the return of a long-lost lover, but recalls 20 years of the pain and joy of true love lost and found and the hurt and reckoning of a family’s betrayal and lies. Esther has the great fortune of being loved by her dear friends through a lifetime of missed opportunities and reflective years following the arrival of the cunning, but ultimately lost, charmer Lajos. As the day draws to a close, fate again enters Esther’s life and she resigns herself with great dignity and resignation to what she knew was always to be her destiny.

A Dangerous Love by Ben Okri

Set in the ghettos of Lagos, Nigeria, among crippling poverty, this compelling book tells of Omovo, an 18 yr old artist, and his love for a young married woman. I’ve not read much African literature and was impressed by the sense of place, characterisation and the poignant love story. There is also a horrifying underlying violence, particularly towards women. However, a good book.

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

A difficult book, though beautifully written. Set mostly in Cairo in the late 19th and early 20th century, is makes a depressing read in terms of the arrogance and treachery of Egypt’s British rulers. It does give you some insight into the lives of Muslim women, but the sudden ending leaves two love stories unresolved.

Boyhood: scenes from a provincial life by J M Coetze

This was a hugely wonderful read, as Coetzee’s genius really illuminates his childhood experiences in apartheid South Africa. This account of childhood was written with the candour of a child and refined by the insight of an adult. Coetze describes the layers of his childhood conflicts, which range from the personal to the public, with the emotional intensity of the “inner” child. As both a personal record of childhood and an account of life in South Africa’s past, this is a book to be treasured.

More coming soon...

South West Reading Passport blog

Other Reviews:

St Thomas Book Chat Reviews

St Thomas Book Chat Reviews on Good Reads