BOOK BITES | Tara Conklin, Keletso Mopai, Jeff Noon

A novel about love in all its messy authenticity, a courageous local short story collection, and a debut crime thriller set in 1980s Britain - here's what we read this week

07 July 2019 - 00:00 By Sunday Times Books
'The Last Romantics', 'If You Keep Digging', 'Slow Motion Ghosts'.
'The Last Romantics', 'If You Keep Digging', 'Slow Motion Ghosts'.
Image: Supplied

Published in the Sunday Times: 07/07/2019 

The Last Romantics ****
Tara Conklin, HarperCollins, R305

From the perspective of Fiona, the youngest child of four, we meet the Skinners. She begins with "Pause", the three-year retreat into clinical depression her mother falls into after their father's death. From there, we follow the family through five decades, both through the dramatic and the everyday, and how these moments of not much can be everything. The Last Romantics is a story about love, with all its bruises, negotiations, unravelling, comfort and companionship. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

If You Keep Digging ***
Keletso Mopai, Blackbird Books, R195

There's a haunting theme of sadness that lingers over most of the stories in this book, and yet it sinks its hooks into you. The despair is not immediately obvious, but after almost each short story there's a lingering melancholy. Keletso Mopai is an astute writer and her stories are entertaining. Some of them, like "Madness and Monkeys", are connected, so you have some aha moments. There are also three stories that contain rape scenarios, while other stories such as "Becoming God" and "Blood of Filth" have a common thread of patriarchal power dynamics as seen through a woman's eyes. It is indeed a courageous contribution to African literature. Mmanakedi Kekana @Chrizelda_kay

Slow Motion Ghosts ***
Jeff Noon, Doubleday, R290

The glossy world of glam rock in the UK and the underbelly of police brutality in the aftermath of the 1981 Brixton riots couldn't be further apart, but Jeff Noon pulls them together into a seamless story in Slow Motion Ghosts. His protagonist, Henry Hobbes, is a gritty detective who has become isolated after exposing the racist conduct of a fellow policeman, and now not much distracts him from his hunt to find the murderer of cult musician Lucas Bell. Bell, using the persona and mask of King Lost, soared to fame before his early death. He is not the only one to die, however, and the King Lost symbols are carved onto the faces of the other victims. This is Noon's first crime novel and he reels you in with intriguing hints and twists, building towards a solid ending. Claire Keeton