like her auntie’s prized Tupperware and other times scattering them haphazardly like her high-octane emotions on a particularly ‘bad day’. But they are always poetic, always lyrical, always resonating with some part of the reader’s needy soul.
Koopman writes of her struggles with racial identification as a woman of colour in South Africa. While this may appear, on the surface, appear to exclude a certain segment of the reading population, the themes of ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ are universal. This book does, however, demand to be read by all South Africans, across all colour lines.
She also writes eloquently and courageously about trans generational legacies and the need to understand the origins of our inherent assets and flaws. Her tender observations of the women who have gone before her helps her, as she traverses (sometimes literally) the road to defining her own identity.
Koopman digs deeply into the traumas and unspoken legacies of her family. She tries to forget her father – an abusive, mentally ill man – but his inconsistent, unexpected reappearances into her life and the manifestations of her own mental illness, leaves her with more unanswered questions about how this ghost of a man truly haunts her on a cellular level.
On the page, she also wrestles with her sexual identity, her amorphous expressions of love and striking a balance between her social and feminist ideals versus the reality she finds herself in.
No aspect of modern-day womanhood is left untouched and this book left the reader questioning, examining, indelibly touched and utterly breathless.
The reviewer received a copy of the book to review.
Reading it I remember thinking, gee whizz – from which part of Jo’burg’s heaving innards did she source this inside info! Well, wherever it came from she has gone back for more. Featured in Knucklebone were former cop Ian Jack and his one-time colleague Reshma Patel – and we find them again in Three Bodies, very definitely an item. And with the frontline peril of Reshma’s new appointment in a highly specialised cash heist prevention unit, you wonder how they sleep at night.
But stepping back from the crime and underworld, in a recent interview, NR Brodie, under which name she writes her thrillers, declares that her books always have an environmental backstory. In Archipelago, chapter one of Three Bodies, she puts her cards on the table with an alarming environmental foreground. Gardener Jonas Jiyane, methodically goes about his work removing triffid-like water hyacinth out of the Hartbeespoort dam. Water already strangled by algae where fish suffocate and he retrieves golf balls for resale. In the same interview she highlights the importance of unsettling otherwise ‘normal’ situations. And in the same chapter she does just this. As a thick black rope emerges from the water, Jonas, initially shocked thinking it to be a snake, realises it’s just rubbish. Until he finds there to be a whole mass of these spongey black ropes, writhing, apparently attached to something. ‘Something big.’ Turns out to be human hair. Attached to - a body. And so we have the first of the three bodies – all found in watery graves. Water is a theme that ripples through the book, beautiful but dangerous, pure but polluted, transparent but infinitely dark.
Next thing Reshma finds herself in a tunnel underneath Park Station, where there’s a channel filled with ‘unpleasant-looking brown water… the source of a thick stench of something like sewage’.
But Reshma is no sissy. Another theme that Brodie embraces (as a champion of feminism) is that a woman can be not just a cop, but a strong, fearless one. And that many cops do what they do in the name of truth and justice. In one hair-raising chapter in a strike on a heist-in-action, ‘Reshma, hyper-alert, kept her eyes fixed ahead of her. She’d fired off three shots on the approach. She didn’t want to waste more bullets, but there was a lone gunman on the blind side of the van.’
To be honest, I’m no crime-thriller fan – but back to Nechama Brodie, her research is intensely impressive. As is the level of her curiosity. In the acknowledgments she says ‘It is nearly a decade since I sat in a small Maboneng apartment with Gogo Nokulinda Mkhize and we discussed mermaids trapped in the Hartbeespoort Dam. The idea stayed with me, nor because it seemed implausible but because it had the feeling of truth (this might not be your truth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so).’
Thrillers may not be your thing either, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t something more to them than crime.
internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari, her debut novel is an astounding piece of literary fiction.
Prejudice, injustice, solitude and conservation are the main themes in this novel and the narrative is a sensitive and creative ‘tour de force’. The inhabitants of the small town of Barkley Cove are wary and suspicious of the so-called Marsh Girl’, Kya Clark. She has lived a solitary existence on the marshes all her life. Abandoned by her mother and then her siblings, Kya is left as a small child with unpredictable Pa. With no schooling until the conservationist hungry Tate enters her waters, she is a bright and intelligent child whose love of the marsh natural heritage leads her into creative places where the birds become her friends and her artistic prowess is given free reign. Left completely alone at the age of ten the resourcefulness of this child allows her to use all the skills learnt from her Pa and brother Jodie to eke out an existence. She is a curiosity, not least to the immature teenage boys of the town who are fascinated by her wild beauty. But when one of their own, the golden boy of the town, Chase Andrews, is found dead in her territory the town turns on her. What transpires is an enthralling story, weaving together the magic of nature with the harsh realities of small town prejudice. At once a murder mystery, love story and coming-of-age novel. Hugely imaginative Owens has crafted a novel that is memorable and sensitive, yet at its core, disturbing.
Alice and Natalie Kessler, he reveals a secret painting. Kessler Sisters is an evocative piece of art, portraying the charming young artist himself, with Alice and Natalie.
Bayber persuades Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, a young authenticator, to explore the possibility of selling the painting. It sounds like a simple enough request…but there is a caveat. They first need to locate the sisters, who seem to have vanished.
Revelations about the past, are juxtaposed with clues Finch and Jameson discover in the present. History catches up with them all and we are drawn into family secrets, which have brought about devastating consequences. The question which lingered long after reading this story was - are we ever able to correct our past mistakes or should we be content to simply forgive them?
Guzeman writes with passion and delicacy. There are many evocative passages which I went back to a number of times. The author weaves the sisters’ conflict, the intrigue of a missing painting, and the grief of long lost love, into a poignant tale which resonated deeply.
I will be on the lookout for more of Tracy Guzeman’s work.
In fact it starts before that with his secrecy, strange behaviour and outbursts. These should have been warning signs – but the well-known, popular television and radio presenter, not knowing what more was in store, did her best to keep the peace.
But this was not the first time Going had been exposed to unpredictable behaviour and violence. Her story tracks back and forth to her childhood and school days when she would wait peeping through the curtain, for her drunk father as he staggered up the pathway, stopping to vomit. Or when she’d try to protect her sibling twins from the noise as his took out his wretchedness on her mother. This will never happen to me, she thought. I will never be beaten up. Never. Ever. History has a cruel way of repeating itself.
The book touches on a number of remembered incidences, hopes and dashed dreams in her life, and also on the many people who played significant roles. Going’s troubled brother who dies tragically in an accident weeks before his time in the army is up. Her then five-year-old son who tries to put cream on her badly bruised eye, her caring domestic Wilhelmina, the loyal friends who stood beside her in court and not least her devoted mother. But if the beating and the violence she describes are shocking, worse is the court ordeal. ‘He’ who remains nameless throughout the book (‘this is my story, not his’), is as menacing, sly, deceptive and vindictive throughout the drawn-out proceedings as he had been in the later stages of their short lived relationship. At one point he even jumps bail and leaves the country. The series of prosecutors, the cross-examinations, the patriarchal defence team, the manipulation are all alarming. The twist of the knife is when incredibly, the magistrate declares that ‘he’ ‘deserves another chance’ and finally, accuses her of exaggeration and ‘speaking to all and sundry in the media’. One can only hope that one day that magistrate reads her book.
In conclusion at a time when the country is imprisoned by a rampant virus and so many women are literally trapped in homes with abusive partners, as hard as it was for Going a woman of status and privilege to be heard and believed, how much harder, if not impossible it is for them. This is a shocking but vital book.
They are all mentioned in this book. Her wit comes through with force, your minds eye is working overtime recalling scenes and laughing out loud in appreciation of that wry wit.
This is not a book you can simply skim through, but one that needs time and constant return to sections to refresh as needed.
Perhaps a little hard going in places talking of the back to back stage performances, the detail is exact and intense, but you get a strong sense of who she is and what an extraordinary talent with a work ethic that shuts everything out but her professionalism.
Much enjoyed but take your time..
on my reading list as long as they continue writing. Strong, versatile voice, incredible characters, and tough, fascinating plots. I will be begging Mopai to contribute to one of the short story collections I plan to edit in the future.
She is a wife and mother of two, but finds life much more interesting with her lover. Her stories of people she meets while waiting for Coenraad, are enthralling and detailed. The meetings are never straight forward, she has to first follow a set of coded instructions and he is often in disguise, leading to several amusing interludes.
The is a story that holds you and makes you want to know whats coming next. It is no surprise this is now published by New York Review.
reader a glimpse into their unique experiences of the government-mandated state of Lockdown, imposed on all citizens to “flatten the curve” of the deadly Corona Virus.
The list of contributors is like a bibliophile’s wet dream. I honestly wouldn’t mind spending an indefinite number of days locked up with the likes of Ben Travato, Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, Eva Mazza, Professor Ismail Lagardien, Tracy Going, Christy Chilimigras et al. Reluctantly pushing my apocalyptic fantasies aside, I settled for simply delving into their words, penned Polaroid snapshots of their diverse and distinctive experiences of the “new normal that is utterly abnormal” - my description - called Lockdown.
The book encompasses essays as diverse as the contributors themselves and spans perspectives just as singular as their writing styles. Ben Trovato’s keen observation skills and dry wit cannot de outdone. The poignancy of Christy Chilimigras’s green wingback chair and the bourgeoisie burden of Dave Muller’s chocolate cake. Helena Kriel’s words, dense and descriptive and divine. Robert Hamblin’s rage threatening to jump from the page and interrupt the reader’s carefully-scheduled Zoom meditation class. From Lindiwe Hani questioning, “Is it possible to suffer from PTSD from events you were not a part of?” while she dances with the spirit of her deceased father to Kelly-Eve Koopman’s gripping dystopian tale outlining the seemingly inevitable descent into acceptable societal madness.
Sara-Jayne Makwala King’s words resonated deeply as she wrote of issues that I am passionate about: addiction recovery, mental health concerns and motherhood. Not much forethought has been given to the addicted populations – both in recovery and not - and how they will navigate their own madness, their uncontrollable afflictions, without access to support and vital resources.
She writes, “My own personal reality is that any one of several monsters I’m already living with could take me out way before a microscopic parasite decides to use me as its host. Borderline, bi-polar, anxiety and depression – not to mention their motley-crew of comrades, self-harm, anorexia and addiction – are all ready to launch their unwavering, potentially deadly assault upon me at the slightest hint of vulnerability. And right now I’m vulnerable as f*ck. Four months post-partum, still feeling ripped from c*nt to craw and single-parenting my way through a global f*cking pandemic.”
The undeniable thread that connects the contributions to this book is that of privilege; making the overwhelming needs of the homeless, the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, the desperate and disadvantaged even more conspicuous by its absence. As, Pumla Dineo Gqola writes, ““kuhlekwa nokuba kubhuiiwe” (we laugh even in the presence of death).”
But another unmistakable thread also ties the tales to one another: that of hope. Hope spreads through the book like the virus itself. And if there is anything worth holding onto right now, it is hope.