Honest and compelling

2012-11-14 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Thinking up a Hurricane

Martinique Stilwell

Penguin Books

 

WHEN she was a mere seven years old, author Martinique Stillwell’s father, who had spent most of his adult life working as an electrician in the foundries of land-locked Benoni, suddenly announced to his family that he had decided life was too short to spend it all living in a house, and that he intended follow his dream of circumnavigating the world.

The fact that his experience of the sea was limited to a few trips in a ski-boat in no way served as a deterrent.

Cashing in his moderate savings, he purchased the Vingila, a battered old yacht with a steel hull, and after a brief sojourn in Durban, where he tried to familiarise himself with its workings, he and his family put out to sea.

Setting off across the Atlantic, via St Helena and Ascension Island, their journey would take them to some of the most remote corners of the Earth and expose them to many dangers and hardships.

For the most part, they lived a hand-to-mouth existence — catching fish where they could or existing on what they could scrounge off the many islands they visited.

When his money ran out, Stillwell’s father simply looked for work (or in one instance resorted to whisky smuggling) and once he had saved enough moved on again.

With childhood memoirs of this sort, there is always the danger of them becoming soporific or just plain self-indulgent.

However, Stillwell is definitely a poster girl for home schooling, because Thinking up a Hurricane is neither twee nor unchallenging, nor does she gloss over her more painful memories.

As she grew older, her relationship with her father, who did not tolerate dissent and had trouble showing affection, became increasingly strained.

After seven years of living a vagabond existence on the high seas, she finally decided she had had enough of his prickly temperament.

She manages to persuade her stoical, if long-suffering, mother to buy her an air ticket back to South Africa, so that she could resume the life of a normal schoolgirl.

Frank, honest and extremely well-written, Stillwell’s unsentimental and compelling memoir blends colourful tales from her storm-tossed upbringing with her later life at Alberton High School, where she was victimised by her classmates for being “different”. Her unusual, sometimes heartbreaking relationship with her parents is presented with humour and intelligence.

 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.