BOOK BITES | Stephanie Land, Michael Caine, Alison Pick

Two memoirs - one about being a maid in 21st-century America, the other by Michael Caine, and a dark novel set in 1920s Palestine: here's what we read this week

03 March 2019 - 00:00
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Published in the Sunday Times (March 3 2019)

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive *****
Stephanie Land, Trapeze, R330 

"My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter," begins Land in her memoir. After fleeing an abusive relationship, she finds herself as a single mother without a job or a support system. "You're welcome," says one of her oldest friends - not for any help, but because "my tax money's paying for all of that." That being welfare, food stamps, housing assistance and child care as Land battles criticism and oppression to work, study and be a good parent. Land is a gifted writer who tells an engaging story about how being poor in America is akin to a crime. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life *****
Michael Caine, Hodder & Stoughton, R330

He's appeared in more than 125 films and has a career spanning over 50 years, so you can bet that Michael Caine has more than a few stories to tell about how he achieved his success and, more importantly, maintained it. Some believe this memoir is more of a side-note to his previous books, What's it All About? and The Elephant to Hollywood. If you're a fan don't hesitate to get this. Although it has elements of the never-give-up-vibes stuff of self-help, the stories are intriguing and you can almost hear the British actor reading to you. That element is a big selling point. That, and how he beat the odds from being a poor child to becoming one of the most celebrated actors of our time. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Strangers With the Same Dream ***
Alison Pick, Headline, R325

It's 1920s Palestine, where Jewish settlers, having escaped persecution, are developing their kibbutz system and sowing the seeds of future disaster for Jews and Palestinians alike, sometimes through idealism and sometimes through less attractive motives. The story is seen through the eyes of three main characters: young and naive Ida; complicated, bullying and insecure David, who leads the kibbutz, and his tragic wife, Hannah. There is also another character, a ghostly first-person narrator whose intrusions into the text are a distraction, as well as a spoiler for the eventual outcome. However, it is still a powerful novel. Its themes are dark and sobering and it shows once again, as Auden wrote: "Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return." Margaret von Klemperer

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