Reviews: Her-stories

13 October 2015 - 02:01 By Aspasia Karras and Kate Sidley


A trio of female writers delve into lives packed to the brim with tragedy and triumph 'Notes from the Lost Property Department' by Bridgett Pitt, Penguin Random House R220The repercussions of the near-fatal accident that befalls 11-year-old Iris on a family hike in the Drakensberg are still felt years later when her mother is hospitalised with a stroke. Iris was nursed back from the brink by her mother who refused to accept the doctor's negative prognosis and is now living as an almost fully functional adult, albeit with a mental illness she calls the Draken, which strikes her with depression and uncontrolled angry outbursts.Now the roles are reversed as Iris is forced to deal with adult practicalities and the kind of decision-making she has been protected from by a super understanding lover, a highly efficient sister (who is overseas and so cannot step in) and ultimately her now dying mother.As Iris struggles to reconcile with her mother's damaged mind she realises that she is clearly harbouring a guilty secret that will unlock the mystery of what happened on the mountain. So Iris takes the final steps to heal herself by embarking on a madcap road trip that takes her back to the scene of the accident.This is a beautifully crafted belated coming of age story as Iris finally reconciles with her adult self and the secrets that stunted her own life and that of her mother. Guilt, sacrifice, secrets, unrequited and dangerously requited love, memory, ageing, death and identity are explored in precise and humane writing, all helped along by a judicious smattering of William Butler Yeats poems. - Aspasia Karras'Anna Peters' Year of Cooking Dangerously', by Kathryn White Umuzi R220Dumped by her long-term boyfriend, the gorgeous Garry, Anna determines to cook her way back into his heart (or, failing that, into a new life). Turns out that Anna is more Bridget Jones than Nigella Lawson and her tales and travails in the kitchen and outside it are good fun. Local readers will enjoy Anna's specifically Johannesburg adventures - wearing a tiara from the Halloween Shop, she celebrates the Royal Wedding at the bar at the Rand Club with "so much champagne that food would be considered an anomaly"; trying to sneak mysteriously from a lover's bed, she is stymied by the triple locked door, barbed wire and electric gates. Anna taste-tests some new blokes, and some new recipes, as she tries to wrench her teetering life back on track. Her cooking skills improve, but her love life? Well, you'll have to read it and see. A book with sex, food and some laughs. Quite a delicious combo. - Kate Sidley'Tribe', by Rahla Xenopolous Umuzi R220A group of good friends parties it up in the hedonistic 1990s in Ibiza. Their "tribe" shares a deep connection that continues into young adulthood, until the addiction of one tribe member tears the group apart. Twelve years later they reunite at a top- end game lodge to support their troubled friend. In this luxurious but isolated environment they revisit their history, connections and fault-lines. Xenopolous captures the intensity and complexity of long-standing friendships, and delves into envy and guilt, addiction and depression. The story is interwoven with music and lyrics, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Johnny Clegg and Iggy Pop. Check out the book's score (at the back of the book) and listen while you read. - Kate Sidley

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