Best reads 2007: Sharon Dell

2007-12-05 00:00

As I read At Risk: writing on and over the edge of South Africa, edited by Liz McGregor and Sarah Nuttall, I kept thinking: “Every South African should read this book”. Even though I didn’t succumb to this cliché in my review, I still believe it. All of these stories touch on a critical aspect of South African life. The issues may be heavy — like Aids, race relations, crime, death and xenophobia — but the effect is ultimately inspiring. Here is personal honesty and emotional engagement, a commitment by intellectuals to go beyond the dry parameters of research or social commentary to probe the sensitive and often unspoken issues, and in so doing, take social discourse to a new level.

Rainbow’s End, Lauren St John’s memoir about her life in Rhodesia and the early days of Zimbabwe, will find particular resonance with readers who live or at one stage lived in that country. However, this would be a pity, because the book is capable of holding its own in any audience. It is a moving and entertaining coming-of-age story and St John also keeps a close eye on political developments.

For the effortless simplicity of its prose, I include South African Dawn Garisch’s debut adult novel Once Two Islands, a magical tale about a girl called Gulai who, at the moment of her birth, is trapped at the interface of modernity and tradition. Rich with symbolism, this is a gentle and enjoyable read.

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