Title: The Woman of the Stone Sea
Author: Meg Vandermerwe
Reviewer: Sylvia Gangat
My understanding in reading the beginning is that Hendrik in the story was planning to drown his sorrows by committing suicide, he proceeded to use alcohol as his means of playing it out.
While all this commotion is happening in the sea his dog named Jakkals is sensing that his master was doing something that he does not understand and barks his head off.
The reason for his willingness to take his own life was, that his wife named Rebecca disappeared and it was understood that she had taken her own life and drowned. They held a memorial service for her passing on. Although he thinks that if Rebecca hadn’t drowned she must be still alive and went elsewhere. He wonders how he got onto his bed after being in the sea and who took off his wet clothes.
He somehow falls into a deep sleep and dreams that Rebecca is still alive. His dreaming that she is busy with making and preparing dough while his watching her.
Hendrik heads out to sea, wanting to fasten his crayfish crates so that the crayfish can nibble on the bait. As he walks along the beach he sees somebody bending with her back to him. He hopes it’s Rebecca coming back, but to his amazement he sees a black woman half fish and half woman. He looks around shocked, who can she be? Surely Rebecca couldn’t turn out to be a black mermaid.
He gathers the mermaid up in some tarpaulin and takes her home. He runs water in the bath and puts her in it. He calls her a black visvrou.
Now what does a visvrou eat? He fries a chop and cuts a piece but he figures that she does not eat meat. She howls loud at night and seems to be hungry.
He is also afraid that the neighbours will hear the high pitched sounds the visvrou is making and they would want to know what’s going on. He discovers she only wants to eat crayfish, so he feeds her and she crunches through all his crayfish. That is money that he would have earned if he wasn’t feeding her.
Hendrik goes to the bathroom to watch what she is doing and also to see what she looks like. Curly black hair, green eyes, little white sharp teeth, bare on top and flapping her tail over the bath.
Hendrik and Jakkals the dog, were coming home after getting more crayfish. He thinks that the visvrou has brought him some luck as his making lots of money. He enters the kitchen and notices the kitchen floor is wet and the visvrou is sitting at the table with Rebecca’s yellow dress. What was shocking is that she had grown two legs and she was busy with Rebecca’s handbag, thrown out all the paraphinalia onto the table.
The fisherman on the beach are now very mad with Hendrik because they are not catching any crayfish because the crayfish are now all going into Hendrik’s crates. He can’t tell them about his luck and the visvrou.
They wouldn’t believe him anyway. Hendrik is just swearing his head off and kept his distance. The whole village is now skinnering about him stealing their livelihood.
Title: The Son of the House
Author: Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia
Reviewer: Nancy Richards
Sandwiched between an abduction and release, are the lives of two women: Nwabulu, a tall busy dressmaker, and Julie, an overweight wealthy widow. Forced together under dark circumstances, they use the time to unfold their stories to each other.
I wanted to weep at Nwabulu’s opening line, it’s 1972 and ‘I had been a housemaid for nearly half my life when I met Urenna. My first sojourn as a housemaid began when I was ten.’ So here was a girl-child marked to struggle. After her father dies she is left with a barren stepmother who blames her for everything, gives her nothing and finally sends her away to be a ‘housemaid’ – a derogatory title if ever, more especially when it is spat out in denial. She is ‘sixteen, on the way to seventeen’ when she meets and falls for the gentle, winsome and educated Urenna, ‘son of the house’ of her friends employers. Dicing with danger to understate the situation. I won’t spoil the journey by saying more, but this bright if battered determined soul manages to survive the unfair flack that seems to befall so many young women of Africa.
By contrast, in 1973 we meet lush and lovely Julie under more generous if ill-fated circumstances. ‘He touched the gold necklace between my breasts, lifting it slightly with his long fingers, weighing the pendant….’Consumer of my wealth’, he laughed at me. I pushed my irritation down into my belly and found an answering smile.’ Hers is a journey of deception and dangerous decisions.
Needless to say at the conclusion of the book a connection between the two women dawns. You can see it coming, but hardly dare breathe for the pain it will inevitably cause. It is a cunning but compassionate story filled with detail that takes you straight to the heart of the setting, the smells, sounds and textures tangible.
As a mother with two ‘sons of the house’ the title appealed to me as much as the fact of this being another novel from story-rich Nigeria – and a debut at that. I may be wrong, but it seems to me first time writers pour so much of themselves into their first-born books. Lawyer and academic Onyemelukwe-Onuobia must have drawn deeply into her own well spring for this one.
Reviewer: Nancy Richards
Title: Shadow Flicker
Author: Melissa A. Volker
Reviewer: Gail Gilbride
An Eco-Romance to keep you on the edge of your seat.
I didn’t plan to read Shadow Flicker in one sitting. I thought I’d read a chapter before I went to bed. At midnight, I turned the last page and breathed out!
Melissa Volker took me on an unexpected roller coaster ride. Her protagonist the vulnerable Kate Petersen, has a secret and she means to keep it. On a renewable energy assignment in an Eastern Cape surfing village, Kate’s resolve is challenged and she has to dig deep in order to hold everything together. She takes a risk and does not tell her boss that he is sending her into the very spot where the tragedy which has shaped her life, actually happened.
Kate arrives in St Francis Bay, ready to tackle the inevitable opposition to her company’s planned wind farm. The widowed Matthew Sykes, local vet and surfer proves to be a distraction and she tries to ignore him at first…
Local residents begin their protest peacefully. But soon this develops into something more sinister, as other agendas surface. Kate is forced to face her worst fears and her secret is about to be exposed to the one person she’s come to care about. Her unexpected strength lifts this novel into a heroine’s journey.
As the drama develops, it becomes clear that other people have secrets too. The stakes are high for Kate. Both her job and her new relationship are under threat. What she doesn’t realise is that her life is in danger too…
Volker is a trail blazer in the Eco-Romance genre. Her gentle voice is unexpectedly powerful. Thorough research, well rounded characters and a nail biting plot, nudge the readers to sit up and take note.
I for one, will be on the lookout for her next offering.
Reviewer – Gail Gilbride
Author of Under the African Sun