BOOK BITES | Karen Harper, Chris Hoare, Alison Pick

A fictionalised account of Consuelo Vanderbilt's powerful story, a biography of Thomas 'Mad' Michael Hoare penned by his son and a dark novel set in 1920s Palestine - here's what we read this week

28 April 2019 - 00:00 By
'American Duchess', 'Mad Mike Hoare: The Legend', 'Strangers with the Same Dream'.
'American Duchess', 'Mad Mike Hoare: The Legend', 'Strangers with the Same Dream'.
Image: Supplied

Published in the Sunday Times: 28/04/2019

American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt ****
Karen Harper, Harper Collins, R280

Consuelo Vanderbilt has been forced into marriage by her mother. The reason? Status and money. This glorious book brings to life the realities faced by many young American women who were sold off by their families to rich Brits in exchange for title and prestige. Consuelo, however, gained a reputation for dismissing her immense wealth and opting to throw herself into a life of charity. Even though her husband isn't a fan of Americans (awkward), she stays with him until she falls in love with another man. Harper does a splendid job of bringing a rich and powerful story to life. Considering the popularity of real-life royals, this book does offer some insight into how the public charm hides the private loneliness. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Mad Mike Hoare: The Legend ***
Chris Hoare, Partners in Publishing, R395

Thomas "Mad" Michael Hoare is best known for his military exploits, making a name for himself as a mercenary leader in the Congo in the 1960s. In 1981, he was again in the headlines, this time for leading an abortive coup in the Seychelles, which saw him spend three years in prison. Hoare was more than a mercenary - he was what they politely called a "gentleman adventurer" who travelled across Africa by motorcycle, led safaris in the Kalahari and spent years sailing around Europe. He was far from mad and, being short and well presented, was the opposite of the stereotypical macho mercenary image. Written by his son Chris, the book gives a balanced and complete view of the equally famous and infamous mercenary leader, sailor and writer. Guy Martin

Strangers with the Same Dream ***
Alison Pick, Tinder Press, R325

Pick takes us back to 1920s Palestine and the arrival of early Jewish settlers who were escaping persecution, developing the kibbutz system and sowing the seeds of future disasters for Jews and Palestinians alike, sometimes through idealism and sometimes through less attractive motives. The novel's events are seen through the eyes of three main characters: young, naive Ida; complicated, bullying and insecure David, who leads the kibbutz; and his tragic wife, Hannah. And there is also another character, a ghostly first-person narrator whose intrusions into the text are something of a distraction. However, Strangers With The Same Dream is a powerful novel with dark and sobering themes. It shows once again, as Auden wrote: "Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return." Margaret von Klemperer