Next week at Love Books in Johannesburg, I will have the pleasure of talking to the author and photographer Réney Warrington whose debut novel October (also published in Afrikaans as Oktober) was one of my favourite reads of last year. At the moment, Réney is also exhibiting at the Circa Gallery in Johannesburg. From the few glimpses I have had of it online, I can’t wait to see the entire exhibition.
Apart from sharing a publisher (Protea Book House), being debut novelists, and writing about sexuality and the trials and tribulations of relationships, Renéy and I have something in common which has resulted in a meaningful exchange of letters and messages in recent months: grief. We have both lost Loved Ones at the beginning of the year and are trying to find our feet in a reality completely changed by the experience.
“…for me, Tales of the Metric System is by far his most accomplished. It is definitely one of the most profound fictional takes on South Africa’s transition from the horrors of the apartheid era to the uncertainties of the present. Spanning four decades between 1970 and 2010, the novel captures the spirit of all crucial historic moments of the period by focusing on the lives of a few people, real and imagined, whose stories are intricately interlinked.”
Read the entire review on LitNet.
Tales of the Metric System by Imraan Coovadia
The official book trailer:
It’s hard to believe that Sarah Lotz’s debut novel Pompidou Posse was published only six years ago. At the time, it captured my attention because of its striking portrayal of friendship forged in the streets of Paris’s underbelly. Published a year later, Lotz’s Exhibit A was a rollicking read despite its grim topic. It explored the complexity of the taboos, misunderstandings, and legal horrors surrounding rape. It’s quite a feat when a book manages to entertain while giving so much food for thought on a truly difficult issue. Lotz’s third novel, Tooth and Nailed, followed in a similar vein in 2010.
In the meantime, Lotz has also teamed up with her daughter and three other fellow writers to publish a few horror, zombie, and erotica novels under the pen names S.L. Grey, Lily Herne, and Helena S. Paige.
Lotz refers to herself as a writer of pulp fiction, but there is much more to her pithy storytelling. A wise soul, she knows all about meaty prose and how to make you feel strongly about her characters.
The Three, Lotz’s first independent international success, is the culmination of her savvy talent and hard-won experience in which she’s honed her craft. Set around the globe, The Three tells the story of four planes which crash on the same day (not recommended for in-flight reading). There are three survivors, perhaps four; all are children. There is also an ominous message from a passenger who lived long enough to record it on her cell phone. A world-wide media frenzy erupts around the aviation tragedies. The families and friends of victims have to come to terms with the reality of unbearable loss. Those connected to the surviving children have to deal with traumas of an entirely different kind.
The narrative unfolds through a collection of reports of various formats (eyewitness accounts, letters, articles, recording transcripts, interviews, among others) as collected by or conveyed to Elspeth Martins whose life is irrevocably changed by her pursuit of the story behind the story. Paging through the book at first, I thought this might be a tad off-putting, but it is anything but. The technique creates an eerie impression of our everyday reality. This is how most news items reach us: as a confusing mix of snippets from sources such as social media, serious in-depth journalism, conspiracy theories, and simple observations. Facts and truth have a tendency of being hidden behind the smoke-screens of fear and fundamentalism. Gossip adds further spice to the setup.
The reader becomes a voyeur who has access to all the available accounts. Perhaps therein lies the novel’s harshest criticism of our daily practices. As in real life, it is impossible to resist the pull of the incredible mystery at the centre of that fatal day which defies all logic and odds as it unfolds. The mind-blowing ending will leave you reeling. May it not be long before the sequel to The Three lands safely on our bookshelves.
by Sarah Lotz
Hodder & Stoughton, 2014
Review first published in the Cape Times, 25 July 2014, p. 11.
Interested in receiving a free copy of The Three? Please take part in my BOOK GIVEAWAY this month and stand a chance of having it (among others) sent to you. Good luck!
Nadia Davids’ work has been published, produced and performed in southern Africa, Europe and the United States. She was awarded the Rosalie van der Gucht Prize for new directors for her play At Her Feet and received three Fleur de Cap Award nominations for Cissie. Nadia holds a PhD in Drama from UCT and lives in London, where she lectures in the drama department at Queen Mary University of London. Her debut novel, An Imperfect Blessing, was published in April.
About An Imperfect Blessing:
“It is 1993. South Africa is on the brink of total transformation and in Walmer Estate, a busy suburb on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, fourteen-year-old Alia Dawood is about to undergo a transformation of her own. She watches with fascination and fear as the national drama unfolds, longing to be a part of what she knows to be history in the making. As her revolutionary aspirations strengthen in the months before the elections, her intense, radical Uncle Waleed reappears, forcing her parents and sister Nasreen to confront his subversive and dangerous past.
Nadia David’s first novel moves across generations and communities, through the suburbs to the city centre, from the lush gardens of private schools to the dingy bars of Observatory, from landmark mosques and churches to the manic procession of the Cape Carnival, through evictions, rebellions, political assassinations and first loves. The book places one family’s story at the heart of a country’s rebirth and interrogates issues of faith, race, belonging and freedom.”
Nadia Davids and I do not know each other in person (yet!), but we have quite a lot in common. We were both born in 1977 and do not live in the countries of our birth. We have academic backgrounds and completed our PhDs in 2008. We are playwrights, short-story writers, and debut novelists this year. I look forward to discussing our novelistic firstborns, An Imprefect Blessing and Invisible Others at the festival.
Nadia Davids’ other scheduled events at the FLF:
Friday 11.30am  Playwrights Strut and Fret
Friday 4pm  Revelling in South African English
Sunday 11.30am  The Considered Canon
Invisible Others is one of three books nominated for the Woordfees prize for debut writers (Ontmoetingsprys vir debuutskrywers by Woordfees 2014).
I am delighted with the news and very sorry that I will be on a plane during the awards ceremony. Holding fingers and toes crossed (also for a safe journey!).