Title: We Don't Talk About it. Ever.
Author: Desiree-ann Martin
Reviewer: Gail Gilbride
1980’s Cape Town and the colour of her skin is already an issue for five year old Desiree-Anne.
The child is unhappy with her doll’s darkness and wants to make her white. She has already internalized that Whites are ‘better’ than everyone else. Her father drinks and gambles. Men touch her inappropriately and her mother’s love is hard to come by. Martin finds her own ways of replacing the love so sorely lacking and at every Scripture Union camp she gives her heart to Jesus.
The unwritten rules in her family and community are, We Don’t Talk About It. Ever. As an awkward teenager in a ‘White School’, Desiree-Anne is painfully aware of her ‘Coloured’ status. Self-harm, disordered eating, petty theft and escapism through books and acting are her methods of coping. She gives up the chance to study drama at UCT in favour of a trip to the UK where she gets lost in bars, clubs and pills. Back home, the Ecstasy trance club scene pulls her in. When Darren, a heroin addict, enters her life, she turns to needles and soon spirals down into addiction.
Martin’s account is harrowing, evocative and at times humorous. I am in awe of the brutal honesty and skilful writing. This memoir is a testament to the author’s love of words, which have become her addiction of choice.
I do hope Desiree-Anne Martins is well into her next offering and I’ll be watching for it.
Reviewer Gail Gilbride
Author of Under the African Sun
Author: Fiona Melrose
Reviewer: Gail Gilbride
Fiona Melrose’s Johannesburg puts her on the map as one of South Africa’s most captivating novelists.
The story takes place in the colourful city on the day of Nelson Mandela’s death. Gin has arrived from New York to organise her cantankerous mother’s eightieth birthday party. Close by, the Mandela family are about to announce Nelson Mandela’s death. Gin grapples with all that Johannesburg represents for her. Amongst many other things, she needs to juggle the arrival of her ex-boyfriend, the search for the missing dog and the celebration which her mother is resisting.
Melrose writes from the heart and manages to convey her deep, complicated love for both the place and the vibrant characters who work and live in it. Through various eyes; an artist’s to a hunchback with no home, we experience the day of Mandela’s death in a modern city grappling to keep up with the many changes happening around it.
Melrose writes with deep insight and offers us a glimpse of this beautiful but unforgiving place, which represents so much of the country itself.
I was mesmerized from the first page and will watch out for Fiona Melrose’s next masterpiece!
Review by Gail Gilbride, author of Under the African Sun .