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BOOK BITES | Quraisha Dawood, Olivie Blake, Anya Hindmarch

10 April 2022 - 00:00 By Gabriella Bekes, Tiah Beautement and JENNIFER PLATT

This week: a charming book about residents in a block of flats set in Durban, a sci-fi TikTok sensation, and a guide with bits of sound, if clichéd, advice

Quraisha Dawood
Stirring the Pot Quraisha Dawood
Image: Supplied

Stirring the Pot ★★★
Quraisha Dawood
Penguin Random House

This charming book tells the stories of the residents of Summer Terrace, a small block of flats on the Durban beachfront. It's about the maids who live in the domestic quarters and their relationships with their madams, who are all demanding Muslim women. It’s a throwback to apartheid days with clear-cut class differences. The maids are part of the family in intimate ways but are outsiders, some of whom cannot even use the toilet in the madam's flat. There's Ruki, a Muslim traditionalist who has her maid Joyce living in her flat, which raises eyebrows. She is constantly provoking the glamorous Shirin and the arguments echo through the building. Zaina, an architecture master's student, lives with her divorced mother Rabia. Zaina is in love with Imraan, a fellow student with whom she has a clandestine but chaste relationship, which would be  frowned on by her mother and the Muslim community, where arranged marriages still exist. Life in Summer Terrace is vibrant. There’s a wedding, rich with beauty and tradition, and a robbery which sows further division between the maids and their suspicious madams. Then there is Ramadan, the fast that brings spiritual cleansing and in this story, sadness. There is much richness about everyday life as a Muslim woman, the practices, the traditions — and the food. A delightful touch is the inclusion of recipes of Indian food cooked by the characters. The corollary is the life of the maids, who live away from their families and work to the gruelling standards expected by their madams. Despite this, there is a strong sense of community in Summer Terrace. It's a lovely read. — Gabriella Bekes

Olivie Blake
The Atlas Six Olivie Blake
Image: Supplied

The Atlas Six  ★★★★
Olivie Blake
Tor Books

The Atlas Six is an urban-scifi-fantasy-academy-X-Men novel that has swept across TikTok. The character-driven tale is a sexy, dark and intriguing chess game. The premise is summed up in the subtitle: knowledge is carnage. As with Adam & Eve, wisdom can be humanity’s downfall. Thus, The Library of Alexander had to destroy itself and rebuild covertly in order to save itself. Now it is guarded by a secret society where once a decade six new magically gifted initiates are offered a chance to join. But  they must first survive their first year and decide if they’re willing to pay the price. Blake excels at giving depth to her characters without sacrificing the pace of her dreamy, yet tension-filled novel. Even backstory details are woven in rather than dumped or dwelled upon to clog a narrative, as so many superhero tales are prone to do. Instead, Blake pulls you down the yellow-brick road where games are being played within bigger games. As the intrigue builds, you’ll find yourself hungry for the next book in the series before you’ve concluded the first. — Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Anya Hindmarch
If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair Anya Hindmarch
Image: Supplied

If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair ★★★★
Anya Hindmarch
Bloomsbury

The title is amazing and is the best advice I have heard for dealing with everyday frustrations, stress and fatigue, but the rest of the book is meh. It really only applies to women who have their own businesses, and have children and who are marriage. If this is you, the book could be a comforting guide. Many parts are about raising children, especially stepchildren; there is even a chapter called “If You Are Happy, Your Children Will be Happy”. There are bits of sound, mostly clichéd, advice about sugar cravings, stress, diet, exercise and sleep. Hindmarch breaks all these down to explain what works for her and lets readers know it’s OK if you sometimes fail to get your stress and cravings  under control. As she says,  the answer is to realise why — and not to shame yourself. — Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt 

 

 


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