BOOK BITES | Peter Storey, Peter F Hamilton, Louisa Hall

Peter Storey's dark memoir that no South African should skip, an intricate sci-fi novel with OTT prose, and a colourful novel about Robert Oppenheimer

17 March 2019 - 00:00

Published in the Sunday Times (17/03/2019)

I Beg to Differ: Ministry Amid the Teargas *****
Peter Storey, Tafelberg, R320

Peter Storey, the former bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa who was also a chaplain to Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, takes the reader through his journey of being a white English-speaking person who was, from a young age, targeted by Afrikaners for his liberal way of life. Former public protector Thuli Madonsela called Storey one of the "midwives of the freedom and democracy we cherish today". It's for this reason that his incredibly humbling and, at times, dark memoir is a book that no South African should skip. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Salvation ***
Peter F Hamilton, Macmillan, R350

This is a huge, intricate sci-fi novel. It has positives: its future worlds are realised in minute detail; the plot is complex, often scary; great matters are at stake. However, the super-technology almost swamps the characters; and the latter all feel two-dimensional - especially the men. Most are security personnel, they're tough; but do all security people speak in back-street slang all the time? The author can write majestic prose; why such impoverished, almost juvenile, dialogue? Also, the men seldom "say": they "grunt", "snarl", "growl", "snap". Phew, relax already! Hamilton has a terrific story here set in an astounding future; but his characters do grate. David Pike

Trinity ****
Louisa Hall, HarperCollins, R290

Robert Oppenheimer is not a name you come across often today, yet in the '40s, '50s and '60s he was one of the most famous people in the world, featured on covers of Time and Life magazine. Known as the father of the atomic bomb (his meme was his porkpie hat), he later campaigned for better control of nuclear power - making enemies of the McCarthy government. This novel is an oblique glance into stages of his life through several people, among them the secret agent who has to watch him and finds him stepping out of his marriage; a colleague's lover who meets him in Los Alamos (where the bomb was built); and an old friend who hosts him in Paris for a night. There's plenty to love about Trinity - colourful, poignant snapshots into characters' lives - but at times it does feel frustrating just circling the man. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt