BOOK BITES | John Grisham, Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Hedley Twidle

This week we feature John Grisham’s follow-up to ‘The Firm’, a tale of two families in turmoil in Nigeria, and a collection of essays examining notions of utopia.

19 May 2024 - 00:00
By GILL GIFFORD, Thango Ntwasa, Mila de Villiers AND Jennifer Platt
'The Exchange' by John Grisham.
Image: Supplied 'The Exchange' by John Grisham.

The Exchange 
John Grisham

4/5 stars

It’s been 15 years since lawyer Mitch McDeere stole $10m from the mob and disappeared. Now the main character from the phenomenal global best-seller The Firm is back in an epic follow-up. The Exchange sees him back in action after working his way up to the top of the biggest law firm in the world. After years in hiding, with their enemies all finally jailed or dead, Mitch and Abby McDeere are finally settled, successful and happy in a New York apartment raising their twin boys. But then a new case takes Mitch to Libya and rockets their lives into chaos as he gets pulled into hostage negotiations with terrorists. With the clock ticking and danger all around, Mitch has to find a way to solve a seemingly impossible situation. Gripping and nerve-racking, The Exchange is another hit from Grisham. — Gill Gifford


'A Spell of Good Things' by Ayòbámi Adébáyò.
Image: Supplied 'A Spell of Good Things' by Ayòbámi Adébáyò.

A Spell of Good Things 

Ayòbámi Adébáyò

4/5 stars

Set in Nigeria, this is Adébáyò’s second novel, in which she traces the fates of two families and how the political failings of the country affect their lives. We follow Eniolá, whose father loses his job, meaning his mother has to become the head of the household. Then there is Wúràolá, who has to contend with a materialistic mother who is more concerned about Wúràolá's marriage (which supposedly enhances the family’s name) and doesn’t care that the engagement is a danger to Wúràolá’s life. While Eniolá and Wúràolá are burdened with trying to be perfect children, their siblings are contrarians who push back against expectations. It would be great to see the story of these two told in a movie or TV series adaptation. — Thango Ntwasa




'Show Me the Place' by Hedley Twidle.
Image: Supplied 'Show Me the Place' by Hedley Twidle.

Show Me the Place: Essays 

Hedley Twidle
Jonathan Ball Publishers 

5/5 stars

Academic and essayist Twidle’s latest collection explores notions of utopias. In a world increasingly resembling a Margaret Atwood novel, Twidle sets out to explore real-life enclaves that embody both literal interpretations of utopias (such as the community of Auroville in India, which is a “living laboratory of alternatives”) and literary ones (he extensively draws on Ursula Le Guin’s 1974 novel The Dispossessed in relation to how Le Guin is “walking away from a whole tradition of written utopias”). Written in accessible, engaging and achronological prose, Twidle’s exploration of humankind’s innate desire to find comfort or solace in a distressing world — predominantly owing to late-stage capitalism — contains anecdotes about his student years; a harrowing account of his mother’s descent into dementia (memory plays a pivotal role in this collection); the story of his quest to find the nose that went missing from the UCT statue of Cecil John Rhodes; a yarn about how he learnt to surf at age 36; and a tale of the Sturm und Drang that accompanies passing one’s driver’s test. A literary read sans the denseness synonymous with the genre, Show Me the Place will make you laugh, empathise and think. — Mila de Villiers