About: Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Title: Wolf, Wolf

Author: Eben Venter

Published: Scribe Publishing February 2015

Status: Read from February 20 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

How should a man be? Mattie Duiker is trying very hard to live up to his dying father’s wishes. He is putting aside childish things, starting his first business serving healthy take-away food to the workers in his district of Cape Town. His Pa is proud.

At the same time, Mattie is pulled toward an altogether different version of masculinity, in which oiled and toned bodies cavort for him at the click of a mouse. His porn addiction both threatens his relationship with his boyfriend, Jack, and imperils his inheritance.

Pa’s peacocking days as a swaggering businessman are done, but even as the cancer shrivels and crisps him, the old man’s ancient authority intensifies as it shrinks, like Mattie’s own signature sauce. Pa haltingly prepares his son for life without him, and himself for life without a male heir. And, while the family wrestles with matters of entitlement and inheritance, around them a new South Africa is quietly but persistently nudging its way forwards.

Wolf, Wolf is a novel of old rigid states and new unfinished forms, of stiff tolerance and mournful nostalgia. With uncommon sensitivity to place, time, and sex, Eben Venter reveals himself to the world outside his homeland as one of its most astute and acute observers, giving shape in story to some of the sea-changes of our time, in the manner of Coetzee and Roth.“

My Thoughts:

I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews – Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.

The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie’s boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy – not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa’s struggles with a post-apartheid society.

The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment.

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Review: A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam


Title: A Beautiful Truth

Author: Colin McAdam

Published: Granta Books August 2013

Status: Read from August 10 to 11, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Allen & Unwin}

My Thoughts:

So I am not even really sure where to start with A Beautiful Truth. I feel I must have missed something important, something that would have revealed McAdam’s novel as a work of brilliance rather than an awkwardly written take on the movie Rise of The Planet of the Apes.

At times I admired a well written phrase or keen observation but mostly I felt the narrative, which is shared between humans and chimps, was cold, distant and arrogant.

I thought the plot disjointed, focusing first on Louee’s life with Walter and Judy Ribke, interspersed with the first point of view of a group of chimps housed in a nearby research institute, which then shifts to a biomedical testing facility where Looee is later exiled. McAdams also detours randomly to introduce characters which add little to the story – a politician, a neighbour, a researcher’s girlfriend and then drops them unceremoniously.

While I recognise McAdams does make some thoughtful observations about love, communication, and the characteristics of humanity, I feel that substance was sacrificed on the altar of ‘literary’ style.

A Beautiful Truth didn’t work for me but reviews are mixed. I would only recommend it to reader’s who have the patience for literary pretension.

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Review: The Weight of Silence by Catherine Therese

Title: The Weight of Silence

Author: Catherine Therese

Published: Hatchette Jan 2009

Sypnosis: The Weight of Silence is the gravity of all the unsaids, the unseens, and how they shape our lives. A father’s drinking, a mother’s shame, a daughter’s longing to hold on to a trouser leg to hear someone speak of what never happened. The Weight of Silence = 9 lbs 4 ozs. In her achingly funny, heartbreaking childhood memoir, Catherine Therese takes the reader inside her head, and upside down on a unique emotional rollercoaster from picking her belly button in her backyard in Blacktown, pulling her hair out standing on her head, to the stage; hiding inside her wardrobe interpreting silence, to the bedroom of a boy with half a thumb and to the labour ward, in an unforgettable story of remembering, forgetting, pretending, of becoming who you are

Status: Read on January 18, 2011

My Thoughts:

Some memoirs tell a story but others, like this one, feel like the person is speaking to themselves. While I admire the author’s candour, I was expecting something less introspective and painful and more anecdotal and amusing by the blurb. I found myself cringing in sympathy and uncomfortable with the rawness of her recollections at times. Even with my familiarity with the places of her childhood, having grown up a few suburbs away, I found it difficult to connect to Catherine’s experiences. It was difficult to make sense of some of the people and situations at times with shifts between her childhood and adult viewpoint and periods of narrative that are simply a stream of conciousness. I can’t help but think that the manuscript should have been handed to a therapist rather than a publisher.

@ Goodreads

Review: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby


Title: Juliet, Naked

Author: Nick Hornby

Publisher: Viking September 2009

Sypnosis: Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.
In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin — his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet — entitled, Juliet, Naked.
What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.

Status: Read from October 19 to November 20, 2010

My Thoughts:

I tried to read this through three times but just couldn’t find a way to care about the characters or the story. In the end I skimmed to the finish  unable to find anything to grab my attention. Perhaps because I don’t relate with obsessive fandom, or have much sympathy for rock stars that feel like a fraud or whatever. I’ve liked other books of Hornby’s but this one just didn’t work for me.
@ Goodreads

Review: A Dream of Something More by Jane Carter

Title: A Dream of Something More

Author: Jane Carter

Publisher:Four Leaf Press

Sypnosis: From rural NSW to inner-city Sydney – and with a cast of wonderfully down-to-earth characters – A Dream of Something More charts the unexpected twists and turns life takes when you dare to follow your dreams.

Status: Read on October 01, 2010

My Thoughts:

Pleasant enough read but I found it difficult to relate to Robbie, and so never much cared what she chose to do. I understand the choice she made to leave her husband, and choose to study but I thought her willingness to take the blame for the breakup and leave her child behind the choice of a martyr rather than a strong woman.
The relationship with Nick starts abruptly, and we don’t actually get to see much of their relationship. Robbie’s agonising over the age difference also becomes tiresome and the convenience of Robbie’s “hidden” lifestyle far too convenient. For me it seemed to be a way to justify the relationship.
The plot itself is fairly predictable, the tone is pleasant but unremarkable and the pace felt flat.
For me, a meandering romance that lacked any real heart or passion.
@ Goodreads