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Book Reviews 4

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Publisher: Harper Perennial

This is a really excellent though at times harrowing read. Although it's set in Nigeria, lots of things about it reminded me of life as a teenager in Ghana (thankfully not the harrowing bits).

The story centres around a young woman, Kambili, who lives a privileged life with her brother, downtrodden mother, and rich religious zealot, autocratic, hypocritical and violent father.

Some salvation and a different perspective on life are provided when Kambili and her brother go and stay with their aunt, a university lecturer, for a short while.

Set against a backdrop of political unrest, the father eventually gets his just deserts (or not, depending on your view on divine retribution! / Karma), and Kambili comes into her own.

It's not all hearts and flowers and happy endings. However, it is a thought provoking and very interesting novel, delivered by a talented young black African woman writer.

Purple Hibiscus book cover

Red Dust by Gillian Slovo, Publisher: Virago

I started reading this book and something about it seemed very familiar though I was sure I hadn't read it before. Gradually it dawned on me that I'd caught the film on telly, half way through, a few months back.

The film was really gripping and the book even more so - I found it hard to put down. Being as I do most of my reading in the bath before setting off for work, this meant getting shriveled up like a prune, and a few late starts.

The story is set in a small town, Smitsrivier, in post-Apartheid South Africa. It centres around the Truth Commission hearing of a white police officer, Dirk Hendrickes, seeking amnesty for his crimes.

The Sizela's, a black family, are desperate to find out what happened to their son James, who disappeared after being arrested (and tortured) by the local police, with fellow ANC activist Alex Mpondo. Mpondo returns to Smitsrivier for the hearing, and has to face his past, and his former torturer.

Eventually the "truth" is outed but is "justice" really served?

A thoroughly gripping plot with lots of twists and turns.


Red Dust book cover

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Publisher: Bloomsbury

This book is just fantastic. Set in Afghanistan in the 1970's it tells the story of two boys growing up together. Their fathers are close friends despite the fact that one is the servant of the other.

Amir is the son of wealthy Wazar Khan. Hassan is Amir's best friend and the son of Ali who works for Amir's father.

Hassan is completely devoted to Amir and will do anything for him including taking insults, beatings and making many other sacrifices in the name of friendship. Amir on the other hand, desperate to win the approval of his father, betrays his friend in many ways, most devastatingly after Hassan helps Amir win the local kite fighting tournament.

When the Russians invade, Amir and his father are forced to flee to America leaving Hassan and his family behind in Afghanistan. Haunted by guilt and the need to atone for the betrayal of his friend, Amir eventually returns to Afghanistan but is it by now too late?

A tender story of love, friendship and father / son relationships, beautifully told, Khaled Hosseini is a truly wonderful writer.

The Kite Runner

Fruit Of The Lemon by Andrea Levy, Publisher: Review

Andrea Levy just seems to keep churning out great books and this one is no exception.

The story centres around Faith Jackson, born and raised in England of Jamaican parents. Faith is determined to carve out her own path in life and get her independence from her family. But life as a young black woman in 70's Britain isn't always that straightforward...

After one particularly unsavoury incident, Faith is plunged into a crisis, takes to bed and won't get up. Her concerned parents' come to the rescue with a solution - to send Faith on a trip to Jamaica to spend some time with Auntie Coral, her mother's sister.

By the end of her visit, Faith has discovered a whole heap of stuff about her family heritage and a new sense of identity and belonging.

Totally absorbing, entertaining and enjoyable read.

My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson, Publisher: Time Warner Books

Kamryn and her best friend Adele are reunited in somewhat tragic circumstances after a 2 year rift over a man. When Adele dies very shortly afterwards, Kamryn inherits a whole lot more than she bargained for...

In an ultimate act of friendship, strength and forgiveness she takes on responsibility for raising Adele's five year old daughter, Tegan.

As if the simultaneous grieving over the death of a dear friend, the challenge of sudden motherhood and consequent severe disruption to her life weren't enough, Kamryn has to cope with others from her past coming back into her life and stirring up her emotions.

This is a really heartwarming story of relationships and self discovery. I'll certainly seeking out for more of Dorothy Koomson's writing.

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