BOOK BITES | S.K. Tremayne, Arja Salafranca et al, Barbara Adair

24 May 2020 - 09:33
The three raved-about titles we read this week.
Image: Supplied The three raved-about titles we read this week.

Published in the Sunday Times (24/05/2020)

The Assistant ****
S.K. Tremayne

Anyone who has had Siri butt in unexpectedly when you hadn't even asked her for help will be equally thrilled and chilled by this plot that takes the digital assistant concept to hellish depths. Jo, a broke, divorced Londoner with a shameful secret hidden in her fun-loving past, moves into her rich best friend's luxury flat. The friend is mostly absent but her Camden apartment comes with all mod cons, including a Home Assistant called Electra, who not only controls the heating and lights but will also chat to her lonely human roommate about anything from the weather to scriptwriting techniques. You know where this is going of course... Electra turns evil and Jo's life becomes a nightmare. There is nothing Electra doesn't know about Jo and she seems intent on destroying her. Is the devilish device just malfunctioning or is someone pushing her buttons? Read and find out. Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

Fool's Gold: Selected Modjaji Short Stories *****
Edited by Arja Salafranca

As short-story writer Lorrie Moore said: "A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film." Each of the excellent short stories in this well-curated collection offers a brief window into the life of South African women. Some are poignantly sad, highlighting poverty, Aids orphans, patriarchy and social problems, while others offer light relief, like Lauri Kubuitsile's story about a village Lothario. Then there's the magnificent "Prayers" by Makhosazana Xaba, told as a letter for assistance from a teenager caring for her sister after their parents die of Aids. Another heartbreaker is Jayne Bauling's "Stains Like a Map", about a couple who leave Mozambique for the promised land of South Africa with little more than a stained mattress that disintegrates like their journey. While some are harrowing, every story is wonderful. Gabriella Bekes

Will, the Passenger Delaying Flight... *****
Barbara Adair 
Modjaji Books

Barbara Adair's latest novel is unique and what it lacks in length it makes up for in depth. Volker, the main character, acts as the reader's tour guide as he travels from Frankfurt to "Africa-the-country", becoming waylaid at Charles de Gaulle. Folded into his stream of consciousness are the stories of people he encounters: a stewardess, a clown, a porn star, a child trafficker. With frankness and wry humour, these characters allow readers a glimpse of what lurks behind the stereotypes. Running beneath the tales are informative and entertaining footnotes that feed into the overall narrative. Adair has created a captivating journey in this quirky, wonderful read. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie