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Tea-drinking introvert found either behind a book or within arm's reach of one. Book reviewer, and book sniffer. You may have seen me on W24, BooksLive, Aerodrome, Bark Magazine, CultNoise Magazine, or Expound Magazine.

20 Oct 2017

Review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Anjum leads a rather unconventional life. Born Aftab, the longed-for son of parents blessed with hordes of daughters, Anjum was never truly that. A hybrid being, a Hijra, Anjum decides to be the creator of her own fate, despite the heartache and bliss this authors.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is her story, punctuated by the tales of her kin, and those she loves. Spanning several years and as many disasters, her place within India and its vibrant people is firmly etched. Between politics, war, and religion, and amid corpses and forgotten names, Anjum’s life is a journey of any visitors.

The conclusion of our tale is nothing as straightforward or trivial as a happy ending, but comes close through a profound sense of peace and finality. While wrongs can never be righted, nor the dead brought back to life, Anjum and her brethren remind us that there is power in starting over, in forgiveness, and in acceptance.

Deeply poetic and profoundly dark, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a daring dance between utter despair and a literary masterpiece, a noteworthy read which stands apart from its contemporaries, unapologetic and confrontational and yet pleasantly so. Here is a narrative which cannot be evaded or avoided – strap on your shoes, for you are about to walk several hundred miles in the ill-fitting shoes of imperfectly beautiful characters.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a weighty tale with heavy conscience, yet its frank descriptions and colourful language add a delightful sharp edge. It is well worth the time to read and digest.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy is published by Penguin Random House.

11 Oct 2017

Review: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors

Sonja is taking driving lessons, but they’re not going too well. She’s also not overly successful with her relationships. Awkwardly wiggling out of social gatherings, and trying and failing to connect with her sister, it seems that the only constant in her life is the books she translates; their plots dark and haunting. Basically, Sonja is not fairing too well at being an adult, and she’s only now – in her forties – beginning to admit it to herself, and wonder how to rectify this.

In Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, the reader plays the ultimate voyeur. We’re afforded a unique view into Sonja’s mind, through her memories, thoughts and experiences. As Sonja tries to make sense of her inner monologue and embroider its contents into an understandable pattern, she can’t help but notice the imperfections in her life. Her estranged sister is a constant shadow with no apparent source, and her status as a single female makes her question her own loveability.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is difficult to define – deeply reflective and brutally honest thoughts mingle with a sly wit and dry sarcasm which basically make Sonja an unlikely hero for any woman with an inner monologue that’s louder than her voice. This book is a wise peek into the mind – a behind the scenes glance of one woman’s seeming mundanity and every day drudgery, and it is a great trip. In addition, the narrative is hopeful and inspirational – Sonja is not a lost cause, nor without promise. Realisation is her knight in shining armour, and she’s about to be her own hero, in life, love and everything else. She is woman, hear her roar.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors is published by Pushkin Press, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

1 Oct 2017

Review: The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Anna Francis has been propositioned with an unusual request. Back in her office job after spending time on n aid mission in a war-torn country, the celebrity that once followed her has died down. After months of no sleep, heightened stress, and constant bombing, Anna is struggling to slip back into her old habits and life. Enter the Chairman, with an offer.

The highly trained, and highly secret, RAN group is recruiting, and given Anna’s history of observing people in high-stress situations, the Chairman requests that she oversee the recruitment process, to give a full report on each candidate. The observations will only take a few days, on an island equipped for the purpose. However, it’s not as straight-forward as watching others; Anna is going to be killed.

The Chairman has decided that a faked death, removing Anna from the presence of others, will heighten tensions and allow her to observe unnoticed, gathering valuable information. The only problem is that Anna is not the only one to disappear, and things on the island begin to go awry from the moment Anna sets foot on it.

The Dying Game is nothing short of brilliant. Asa Avdic is a master at creating tension, and sending the reader’s heart rate through the roof. The Dying Game is completely gripping, with a horde of unexpected twists, red herrings, and a host of protagonists with hidden agendas, it is entertaining and unpredictable. As Anna tries to distinguish between reality and pretense, the reader has no choice but to follow her through a maze of lies. This is a brilliant book, and I doubt that anyone will disagree.

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic is published by Windmill Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.