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The value of a day is evident when considered in terms of long weekends. Add an extra day to the normal 2-day experience and suddenly you have the energy to cook a special meal, to invite friends and family for a get-together, to drive to a country town or coastal spot or to plan a weekend in the city. Now try adding two days! Yes, now there is enough time, between the eating and entertaining and exploring, to read a book from cover to cover!
Try these great reads during the luxury of an extended Easter weekend.
Golden Hill – Francis Spufford (Jonathan Ball, R190 – available at The Book Lounge, Cape Town)
This tour de force, chosen by many as their book of the year, is a gripping and entertaining read. It is 1746 and a mysterious and charming young man steps off a boat in New York – a small town on Manhattan Island. He heads straight for the most reputable counting house and presents them with a bill for one thousand pounds, which he wishes to cash. He is absolutely insistent that the bill is genuine, but equally clear that he cannot divulge where the bill comes from, or why he has it. While he, and New York society, await the confirmation of the bill on the next ship, he sets about getting to know the, by now, very curious residents of New York. His escapades, scrapes and bemusement are richly chronicled, and the characterisation and sense of place are fantastic. We watch him stumble and make mistakes, and cannot look away. When the conclusion comes and we realise what his purpose is, it is devastating and stays with the reader long after the book is finished.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark – Anna North (Jonathan Ball R240 – available at The Book Lounge, Cape Town)
Originally published in 2015, we’ve only just discovered this jewel of a novel. Funny, quirky, heartbreaking – it’s everything you want from a novel that will take you away from your world for a while. Sophie Stark is a maverick film maker whose story is told by the six people who knew her best. North cleverly constructs her life without ever sharing the main character’s perspective and she pulls it off with aplomb. If you loved the movie Juno, you’ll love this. If you haven’t seen Juno, you’ll love this anyway. A literary version of the indie movie scene – a must read.
The Shallows – Ingrid Winterbach (NB Publishers R275 – available at The Book Lounge)
After separating from his partner, painter Nick Steyn moves to Cape Town’s City Bowl. He soon befriends the young boarder who moves in with him. One night she doesn’t return home and his attempts to trace her prove futile. A few weeks after her disappearance, prosperous artist Buks Verhoef makes an offer on Nick’s house. Nick starts to wonder whether these events are related and, if so, could Nick’s former friend, the author of the outrageous novel The Shallows, Victor Schoeman, be involved?
In true Winterbach-style, a parallel narrative interlinks the novel’s characters and events.
An anonymous Stellenbosch woman writing a monograph on the famous Olivier brothers witnesses the murder of Buks Verhoef in a coffee shop. Soon thereafter a sinister man starts stalking her. Could this menacing stranger possibly be Victor Schoeman?
Fantastical, absurd, and haunting, The Shallows, translated by Winterbach-veteran Michiel Heyns, is a must-read for anyone who appreciates masterful storytelling.
Sirkus – Irma Venter (NB Publishers R240 – available at The Book Lounge)
It’s the eighties in Johannesburg. Adriana van der Hoon is 18. Her father, an anti-apartheid activist and Dutch citizen, smuggles money for the ANC using a non-profit trust as a front. But then things change . . . and suddenly South Africa’s security police blackmails Adriana into following the money trial from Berlin to Johannesburg. As political change sweeps across Europe and South Africa, Adriana acquires a new skills set, a lover and an enemy.
Elders – Erns Grundling (NB Publishers R250 – available at The Book Lounge)
At the beginning of 2015, acclaimed Weg! journalist Erns Grundling was overworked, overweight, overwrought, injured – and recently diagnosed with sleep apnoea. Clearly, the only thing to do, was to head for Spain and the long and winding road of the Camino – no cellphone, no comrades, just one man on two feet. Come join the pilgrimage!
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